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Surveys underestimate alcohol consumption levels

Figures updated to reflect the increasing strength of alcoholic drinks show many more Scottish drinkers than previously thought could be putting their health at risk.

Recalculated figures from the 2003 Scottish Health Survey show that 34% of men consume more than their recommended weekly limit of 21 units, with 23% of women drinking more than their recommended 14% per week.

These figures for men and women are up from 27% and 14% respectively under the old calculations.

The statistics also show that 63% of men drank more than the recommended four units on their heaviest drinking day in the week prior to being surveyed, while 64% of women drank more than their recommended three units.

In fact, 40% of men and 33% of women are "binge drinking" at least double the recommended daily unit intake on their heaviest drinking day.

The effect of the revisions of the 2003 findings is greater for women than men, mainly due to the fact that the change in unit conversion factors has had a greater impact on wine than on other types of drink and women are more likely to be wine drinkers.

The new figures come just two days after an NHS Health Scotland study demonstrated that surveys significantly underestimate consumption levels.

Shona Robison, Minister for Public Health, said:

"These figures highlight a troubling reality: far too many Scots are regularly drinking more than the recommended amounts, putting their health at risk in both the short and long term.

"What's even more worrying is that, given NHS Health Scotland's findings, the true scale of alcohol misuse is likely to be significantly worse than even these figures suggest.

"We have to dispel the myth that alcohol-related harm is a marginal problem, that it affects only those with chronic alcohol dependency, or so-called 'binge drinkers'.

"We need to rebalance Scotland's relationship with alcohol and enable people to make more positive choices about their alcohol use. Although there are no quick fixes, we feel this is a realistic goal. We are in this for the long term.

"We are planning to publish our proposals for tackling alcohol misuse for consultation in the summer."

The Scottish Government