New studies show that the amount of alcohol Brits report drinking only accounts for 40% to 60% of sales.
This leaves about 50% of all alcohol sales unaccounted for which has researchers worried. There are already studies showing more than a third of the English population drinks unhealthy levels of alcohol and many more people engage in binge drinking. With the new research on underreporting, scientists estimate both men and women are overindulging.
The researchers believe around 44% of men and 31% of women in England drink more than the recommended weekly limit from the Royal College of Physicians. That equates to more than 1 and a half pints a day for men and just under 2 small glasses of wine for women.
Lead researcher Sadie Boniface, from University College London, said, "Currently we don't know who consumes almost half of all the alcohol sold in England. This study was conducted to show what alcohol consumption would look like when all of what is sold is accounted for, if everyone under-reported equally. The results are putative, but they show that this gap between what is seen in the surveys and sales potentially has enormous implications for public health in England."
Based on the results of this latest research, the missing alcohol would increase unhealthy weekly drinking in men by 15% in men and 11% in women. The numbers also indicate that the under reporting could mean half of a English men and women are binge drinkers.
"What's needed now is a detailed understanding of whether some people under-report their consumption more than others: to what extent does this vary between men and women for example, by how much someone drinks, or by what types of drink they prefer," Ms Boniface added. Little is known on this at present, but this could reveal groups who under-estimate their alcohol consumption substantially, illuminating areas where targeted alcohol education initiatives should be developed."
This new information has government ministers, including the shadow public health minister calling for more funds and programs to take on the countries drinking problem. This could mean changes in hospitals, shops, minimum pricing and every other area surrounding the culture of drinking.
Having a quick pint is so engrained into English culture that it will take a huge effort to change the public’s perceptions.