Alcohol misuse across the UK is a significant public health problem with major health, social and economic consequences, estimated at between £21 and £52 billion a year. Each year there are more than one million admissions to hospital for alcohol-related conditions.
Alcohol consumption is a public health issue across Europe, which has the highest per capita consumption of alcohol of all regions globally, and the highest level of alcohol-related harm.
Harmful use of alcohol contributes not only to the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), but also to the burden of communicable diseases, as well as violence and injuries.
How much is a unit of alcohol?
We’re supposed to be keeping an eye on how much we drink, but how many of us really know what a unit of alcohol is?
Counting alcohol units was first introduced in the UK in 1987 to help people keep track of their drinking, but with so many different drinks and glass sizes, from shots to pints, not to mention bottles, it’s easy to get confused about how many units are in your drink.
Try the free Alcohol Change calculator to see how many units you are drinking.
Alcohol unit reference
One unit of alcohol
- Half pint of ‘regular’ beer, lager or cider
- Half a small glass of wine
- One single measure of spirits
- One small glass of sherry
- One single measure of aperitifs
Drinks more than a single unit
- Pint of ‘regular’ beer, lager or cider
- Pint of ‘strong’ or ‘premium’ beer, larger or cider
- Alcopop or a 275ml bottle of regular lager
- 440ml can of ‘regular’ lager or cider
- 440ml can of ‘super strength’ lager
- 250ml glass of wine (12%)
- 75cl bottle of wine (12%)
Units are a simple way of expressing the quantity of pure alcohol in a drink.
One unit equals 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol, which is around the amount of alcohol the average adult can process in an hour.
This means that within an hour there should be, in theory, little or no alcohol left in the blood of an adult, although this will vary from person to person.
The number of units in a drink is based on the size of the drink, as well as its alcohol strength.
For example, a pint of strong lager contains three units of alcohol, whereas the same volume of lower-strength lager has just over two units.
Knowing your units will help you stay in control of your drinking
To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level if you drink most weeks:
- 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
- 14 units is equivalent to 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of lower-strength wine.