Consuming between eight and 14 units of alcohol a week boosts the total number of days spent in hospital, finds research published ahead of print in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Twenty one weekly units is the government’s recommended maximum weekly tally of alcohol for men.
The study included almost 6,000 working men, aged 35 to 64 during the early 1970s, from West and Central Scotland. Participants underwent a comprehensive health screen to check for underlying and potential health problems and were quizzed about their weekly alcohol consumption.
Their health was then tracked for an average of 28 years, using national hospital activity data, focusing on heart and respiratory diseases, stroke and alcohol related illness/conditions.
The results showed that men drinking over 22 units a week had a 20% higher rate of admissions into acute care hospitals than non-drinkers.
But relatively low levels of alcohol consumption gave rise to a higher number of bed days. Drinkers of eight or more weekly units spent longer in hospital than non-drinkers, with length of stay progressively increasing the higher the weekly consumption.
Those drinking the most chalked up a 58% higher use of beds.
The authors conclude that alcohol has a “notable effect” on health service use and therefore overall costs to the NHS.