A recent study has suggested that young people lack knowledge and skills about safe drinking. The study was led by a researcher at the University of Sussex, who has suggested that government alcohol consumption guidelines are generally not followed.

Dr Richard de Visser, a Senior Lecturer at the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex was the lead author, and Julian Birch from the Brighton and Sussex Medical School also contributed research.

The paper, entitled ‘My Cup Runneth Over: young people’s lack of knowledge of low-risk drinking guidelines’, was published in a special themed issue of the journal ‘Drug and Alcohol Review’.

The study explored the relationship between knowledge of recommended guideline amounts of alcohol and actual intake, and perception of the size of drink a person had poured.

This involved surveying over 125 university students and 309 secondary school students about their knowledge and belief about units and alcohol guidelines with seven questions.

The university student participants, aged 18-25, also performed a pouring task using cups and bottles filled with coloured liquid emulating wine, beer and vodka to show their estimate of the usual amount they would pour to drink and the amount of drink that was worth one unit.

The study found that two thirds of people overestimated the quantity of alcoholic beverage per unit and hence would pour themselves drinks with more units than they expected.

There were very few correct answers to the seven questions, but there was an awareness of recommended daily units for men and women, which are two to three units for women, and three to four units for men.

It was concluded that young people are likely to underestimate the amount of units they consume even with awareness of recommended alcohol units and hence drink more than the recommended amount.

Dr Richard de Visser and Julian Birch formed a series of recommendations within the study, including intervention prior to young people starting drinking.

Dr. de Visser stated that: “Our results indicate that young people tend not to possess the knowledge or skills required to drink alcohol in accordance with government guidelines. Using drink-pouring tasks as part of this education could promote better understanding of alcohol units and more accurate reporting of alcohol consumption.”

He concluded that: “Many other studies have shown that young people are less concerned about the health issues of drinking and more interested in the pleasure it gives them. Moderation and restraint runs counter to the contemporary cultural emphasis of excessive and conspicuous consumption.”

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