HEADLINES Published May29, 2015 By Bernadette Strong

People Drink More Than They Think on Weekends and Special Occasions

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Asking people about their typical drinking may not give an accurate portrayal. You need to ask about weekends and special occasions.
(Photo : Jasper Juinen, Getty Images )

If you ask people how much alcohol they drink, they will often tell you how much they drink on a typical day. But asking people how much they typically drink may not give an accurate representation of their real intake. A British study has found that when you ask about drinking on weekends and special occasions, the amount of alcohol people say they consume is much more accurate.

Researchers in England and Wales noted that surveys that ask people how much they typically drink account for only about 60% of all the alcohol sold in England. They decided to look at atypical drinking, the drinking done on weekends and for special occasions like holidays, weddings, and sports events. They conducted a telephone survey of more than 6,000 people over age 16. These people were asked how much they drank on weekends and special occasions and also the average number of drinks they had during holidays and events. The respondents included more than 4,600 people who said they were currently drinkers.

This survey found that people drank an extra 120 million units of alcohol each week in England, or the equivalent of about 12 million bottles of wine. This accounts for 40% of the gap in alcohol sales in England between actual sales and what people said they drank typically. The remainder of the gap may mean that people still underestimate how much they drink even on special occasions. The researchers defined one unit of alcohol as 8 grams of pure alcohol.

The biggest increase between typical and atypical drinking was in people aged 25 to 24 years old. They had the highest amounts of everyday drinking. Special occasion drinking added another 18 units of alcohol each week for this group.

The study found that while men had more drinks on special occasions, women had a greater increase in the number of drinks compared to their typical drinking. 

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