Buykx, P., Gavens, L., Hooper, L., Gomes de Matos, E., Holmes, J.

Self-reported knowledge, correct knowledge and use of UK drinking guidelines among a representative sample of the English population


Alcohol and Alcoholism, 53, 1-8.

Open Access:

Aims: Promotion of lower risk drinking guidelines is a commonly used public health intervention with various purposes, including communicating alcohol consumption risks, informing drinkers' decision-making and, potentially, changing behaviour. UK drinking guidelines were revised in 2016. To inform potential promotion of the new guidelines, we aimed to examine public knowledge and use of the previous drinking guidelines, including by population subgroup.

Methods: A demographically representative, cross-sectional online survey of 2100 adults living in England in July 2015 (i.e. two decades after adoption of previous guidelines and prior to introduction of new guidelines). Univariate and multivariate logistic regressions examined associations between demographic variables, alcohol consumption (AUDIT-C), smoking, and knowledge of health conditions and self-reported knowledge and use of drinking guidelines. Multinomial logistic regression examined the same set of variables in relation to accurate knowledge of drinking guidelines (underestimation, accurate-estimation, overestimation).

Results: In total, 37.8% of drinkers self-reported knowing their own-gender drinking guideline, of whom 66.2% gave an accurate estimate. Compared to accurate estimation, underestimation was associated with male gender, lower education and AUDIT-C score, while overestimation was associated with smoking. Few (20.8%) reported using guidelines to monitor drinking at least sometimes. Drinking guideline use was associated with higher education, overestimating guidelines and lower AUDIT-C. Correctly endorsing a greater number of health conditions as alcohol-related was associated with self-reported knowledge of guidelines, but was not consistently associated with accurate estimation or use to monitor drinking.

Conclusions: Two decades after their introduction, previous UK drinking guidelines were not well known or used by current drinkers. Those who reported using them tended to overestimate recommended daily limits.

SHORT SUMMARY: We examined public knowledge and use of UK drinking guidelines just before new guidelines were released (2016). Despite previous guidelines being in place for two decades, only one in four drinkers accurately estimated these, with even fewer using guidelines to monitor drinking. Approximately 8% of drinkers overestimated maximum daily limits.


IFT Institut für Therapieforschung
Leopoldstraße 175
80804 München

Tel. +49 89 360804-0
Fax +49 89 360804-19