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A great piece of research came out from UCL yesterday.  It very cleverly matched what people say they think they drink against figures for alcohol sold countrywide, and found a discrepancy.  Their conclusion?  That people underestimate the amount of alcohol they drink.  There is a non-academic summary of the report here if you’re interested  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21586566#

In the field of alcohol research, it’s long been known that people underestimate how much they drink, and the reasons for this are several.  Firstly, there is genuine confusion over what a “unit” is.  Many people think there’s one unit in a glass of wine, whereas in fact alcohol concentrations have been going up in wine over the past few years, as have glass sizes, so there are at least 2.  There are similar scenarios for other drinks.

Secondly people simply don’t count their drinks as they go along.  We don’t count the calories of what we’re eating unless we’re trying to control our weight, so why should we count the units of what we’re drinking?  Thirdly, there is that great Freudian concept of denial.  Far be it for me to be a cheerleader for Freud, but I do think he got a few things right, and denial is one of them.  If you admit to how much you’re drinking, you might have to do something about it, and who wants to do that?

So, the findings of the research are fascinating, and what a novel way to look at data.  However, as with most alcohol research, the really interesting bit is the story behind the research – why it is happening.  That’s what I’m interested in.  Why.

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