Perceptions of Alcohol Health Warning Labels in a Large International Cross-Sectional Survey of People Who Drink Alcohol

Alcohol Alcohol. 2020 Apr 16;55(3):315-322. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agz099.


Aims: This paper aimed to explore perceptions of alcohol health warning labels amongst a large international sample of people who drink alcohol.

Methods: The Global Drug Survey (GDS) is the world's largest annual cross sectional survey of drug use. Seven health warning labels were presented (relating to heart disease, liver, cancer, calories, violence, taking two days off and the myth of benefits to moderate drinking). People were asked if they were aware of the information, believed it, if it was personally relevant, and if it would change their drinking. This paper included data from 75,969 respondents from 29 countries/regions who reported the use of alcohol in the last 12 months, collected during November-December 2017 (GDS2018).

Results: The fact that drinking less can reduce the risk of seven types of cancer was the least well known, and yet was demonstrated to encourage almost 40% of drinkers to consider drinking less. Women and high risk drinkers were more likely to indicate they would reduce their drinking in response to all labels. Personal relevance was identified as a key predictor of individual responses.

Conclusion: Findings highlight the potential of a range of health messages displayed on alcoholic beverages to raise awareness of alcohol-related harms and potentially support a reduction in drinking. Further research should explore what influences personal relevance of messages as this may be a barrier to effectiveness.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcoholic Beverages / adverse effects*
  • Attitude to Health
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Global Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Product Labeling*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult