Page last updated: September 29, 2015
Lay epidemiology and the interpretation of low risk drinking guidelines by adults in the United Kingdom

A UK study explored how the concept of lay epidemiology could enhance the understanding of how drinkers respond to current UK drinking guidelines.

The qualitative study used 16 focus groups in four sites in northern England and four sites in central Scotland. 66 males and females, all drinkers aged 19 and 65 years and from different socio-economic backgrounds participated. Data were analysed thematically using a conceptual framework of lay epidemiology.

Current drinking guidelines were perceived as having little relevance to participants' drinking behaviours and were generally disregarded. Those participants with drinking patterns that comprised heavy weekend drinking saw daily guidelines as irrelevant. The amounts given in the guidelines were seen as unrealistic for those motivated to drink for intoxication, and participants measured alcohol intake in numbers of drinks or containers rather than units. Participants reported moderating their drinking, but this was out of a desire to fulfil work and family responsibilities, rather than out of concerns for their own health. The current Australian and Canadian guidelines were preferred to UK guidelines, as they were seen to address many of the above problems. The authors suggest that drinking guidelines derived from, and framed within solely epidemiological paradigms lack relevance for adult drinkers who monitor and moderate their alcohol intake according to their own knowledge and risk perceptions primarily derived from experience. Insights from lay epidemiology into how drinkers regulate and monitor their drinking should be used in the construction of drinking guidelines to enhance their credibility and efficacy.

Source: Lay epidemiology and the interpretation of low risk drinking guidelines by adults in the United Kingdom. M Lovatt, D Eadie, PS Meier, J Li, L Bauld, G Hastings; J Holmes. Addiction, published early online 25 July 2015.


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