Lack of international consensus in low-risk drinking guidelines

Drug Alcohol Rev. 2013 Jan;32(1):11-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-3362.2012.00475.x. Epub 2012 Jun 5.


Introduction and aims: To encourage moderate alcohol consumption, many governments have developed guidelines for alcohol intake, guidelines for alcohol consumption during pregnancy and legislation relating to blood alcohol limits when driving. The aim of this study was to determine the degree of international consensus within such guidelines.

Design and methods: Official definitions of standard drinks and consumption guidelines were searched for on government websites, including all 27 European Union Member States and countries from all global geographic regions.

Results: There was a remarkable lack of agreement about what constitutes harmful or excessive alcohol consumption on a daily basis, a weekly basis and when driving, with no consensus about the ratios of consumption guidelines for men and women.

Discussion and conclusions: International consensus in low-risk drinking guidelines is an important--and achievable--goal. Such agreement would facilitate consistent labelling of packaged products and could help to promote moderate alcohol consumption. However, there are some paradoxes related to alcohol content labelling and people's use of such information: although clearer information could increase people's capacity to monitor and regulate their alcohol consumption, not all drinkers are motivated to drink moderately or sensibly, and drinkers who intend to get drunk may use alcohol content labelling to select more alcoholic products.

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Consensus*
  • Health Policy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Internationality / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Factors