'Social drinking': the hidden risks
If you think only alcoholics and binge drinkers are putting their health at risk, think again.
Many people who see themselves as "social drinkers" are at risk of developing long-term health conditions because of the amount they regularly drink.
Many drinkers are unaware that regularly drinking more than 14 units a week can lead to a wide range of long-term health problems, including cancer, stroke and heart attack.
Low-risk drinking advice
To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level if you drink most weeks:
- both men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis
- spread your drinking over 3 or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week
- if you want to cut down, try to have several drink-free days each week
Fourteen units is equivalent to 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine.
Read about the risks of drinking too much to find out how your drinking habits may be affecting your health.
Over the limit
Around 31 out of every 100 men and 16 out of every 100 women in England drink above low-risk levels.
Many of the longer term alcohol-related illnesses affect older people who drink more than 14 units a week and consider themselves to be "social drinkers".
Professor Nigel Heaton, a liver transplant consultant, says: "Some people think it's natural to have a bottle of wine a night.
"It seems respectable because you're drinking with food and it's not associated with any drunken behaviour or even feeling drunk.
"But if it happens regularly, you may have problems later on. Most of us believe that people with alcoholic liver disease are alcoholics.
"You may not be an alcoholic, but if the overall amount of alcohol you drink regularly exceeds the low-risk guidelines, it may still cause serious harm."
Find out more
Page last reviewed: 14 December 2018
Next review due: 14 December 2021