My cup runneth over: young people's lack of knowledge of low-risk drinking guidelines

Drug Alcohol Rev. 2012 Mar;31(2):206-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-3362.2011.00371.x. Epub 2011 Nov 3.


Introduction and aims: If young people are to consume alcohol in accordance with government guidelines, they must possess the relevant knowledge and skills. No previous research has examined correlations between different forms of knowledge of alcohol guidelines or how they are related to personality variables and beliefs.

Design and methods: Two samples were recruited in South-East England: 309 secondary school students aged 16-18, and 125 university students aged 18-25. All participants completed a computer-administered survey of knowledge and beliefs. University students also reported their alcohol consumption and completed tasks in which they poured their 'usual' drinks, and what they believed to be 'units' of alcohol.

Results: Most respondents lacked the knowledge and skills required to drink in accordance with government guidelines. Participants' usual drinks were substantially larger than one unit, and participants tended to underestimate the unit content of drinks. There was little evidence that possession of accurate knowledge of one aspect of alcohol units and guidelines was related to accurate knowledge in other domains.

Discussion and conclusions: Many young people may lack the knowledge required to monitor their alcohol consumption or give accurate self-reports in research. Future research should evaluate using a drink-pouring task as part of interventions designed to improve knowledge and skills and encourage moderate consumption of alcohol.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / prevention & control
  • Alcoholic Beverages*
  • Data Collection
  • England
  • Female
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Students
  • Universities
  • Young Adult