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‘16 pints a week’ average for middle-aged men

The average alcohol intake for middle-aged men in the UK is equivalent to 16 pints of beer, according to new research.

Almost half of UK men aged 45-64 drink two-and-a-half times more than the government drinking guidelines recommend 

Approximately 3.5 million middle-aged men (men aged 45-64) are drinking more than 14 units per week (equivalent to six pints of 4% beer), with an average intake of 37 units per week (equivalent to 16 pints of 4% beer), according to a Drinkaware study.

Drinkaware calculated that almost half of middle-aged men are drinking above the low-risk weekly alcohol guidelines. The guidelines set a limit of 14 units per week for both men and women.

Just over half (53%) of these drinkers don’t believe their drinking could have a negative impact on their health, the alcohol education charity said.

Launching a new campaign to help middle-aged men to ‘Have a little less, feel a lot better’, Drinkaware pointed out that small reductions in alcohol intake can lower blood pressure, reduce weight and improve mental health, as well as reducing the chances of death from alcohol-related illnesses.

The research shows that 44% of middle-aged men in the UK are drinking in ways that are likely to be putting their health at risk. On average this group consumes 37 units in a typical week – two-and-a-half times the level set in the government’s health guidelines.

Further, approximately 800,000 men in this age group drink 50 or more units – the equivalent of 21 pints – in a typical week. The UK population of males aged 45-64 is 8,121,575, according to Office for National Statistics data.

Drinkaware noted that alcohol-related hospital admissions in England are highest in the 45-64 age group and more than double than among under-40sHowever the charity’s research also suggested a lack of awareness about the harms associated with their drinking.

More than half (53%) of middle-aged men drinking above the low-risk guidelines do not believe they will incur increased health problems if they continue drinking at their current level, with almost half (49%) also believing moderate drinking is good for your health, Drinkaware said.

The study also found that nearly a third (29%) of middle-aged men drinking above government low-risk guidelines found they could not stop drinking once they started.

Over a quarter (27%) had experienced feelings of guilt or remorse after drinking and almost a third (32%) had been unable to remember what happened the night before because of alcohol.

“For a large number of middle-aged men, drinking is part of their daily routine and often goes unnoticed,” said Elaine Hindal, chief executive of Drinkaware.

“As there are often no immediate negative consequences to their drinking, they are unaware of how their drinking may be impacting on their health.

Our ‘Have a little less, feel a lot better’ campaign aims to show these drinkers that reducing alcohol consumption, even by just a few drinks each week, can begin to make a big difference to their long-term health. 

The UK government issued its first new set of drinking guidelines for 20 years in January of this year. However the guidelines have come under strong criticism from some people who see them as being too strict.

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, responded to the guidelines at the time by saying that a recommendation of 14 units per week for men put the UK “well out of line” with comparable countries, including the US, which advises 24.5, France 26, Italy 31.5 and Spain 35 units a week.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Association, also criticised the government’s lack of consultation with the trade regarding the new guidelines, which have made producers’ efforts to improve unit labelling on their products pointless given that such labelling is now inaccurate.

In March this year the drinks trade heaped further criticism on chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies’s guidelines, with drinks supplier the Portman Group telling The Mail on Sunday that the new limits “contradict decades of scientific findings”.

Drinkaware commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct the survey of UK adults in November/December 2015. A total of 2,303 people, aged 18-75, were questioned; 476 were men aged 45-64.

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