The UK authorities suggest that the tolerable maximum weekly consumption of alcohol for men is 21 units (168g), and for women 14 units (112g). One unit of alcohol is defined as a half-pint of beer, a measure of spirits or a glass of wine. But how is anyone supposed to know how much these volumes are if they’re not in a bar?
These are often referred to as ‘safe drinking levels’, but of course no level of alcohol consumption is totally risk-free. The levels are officially described as “…the amounts below which it is unlikely that someone will develop significant illness or an early death”. Pretty vague, I’m sure you’ll agree. But it just illustrates that there is no real way to tell exactly how much you can safely drink. The more you drink, the worse the effects, that’s all you need to know.
There is some evidence to suggest that, in older people at least, there may be some health benefits from drinking in moderation – primarily from reductions in heart disease. But this should not be used as an excuse for drinking more.
More recently the government has advised that these weekly consumption guidelines should be spread out across the week into daily limits, to avoid the idea that it’s fine to not drink all week, then drink your entire alcohol ‘allowance’ at the weekend. So it now becomes 3-4 units per day for men, and 2-3 units per day for women.
Of course, these guidelines apply to healthy adults only, so the ‘safe’ levels for teenagers or adults with health problems is obviously much lower.
Are you drinking too much?