Common Health Questions

What level of drinking reduces the health risks of alcohol?

Adults should not regularly drink more than:

  • 3-4 units a day if you’re a man
  • 2-3 units a day if you’re a woman

Regularly means drinking every day or most days of the week.

For information about children and alcohol, see Should my child drink alcohol?

Alcohol and pregnancy

Pregnant women and women trying for a baby should avoid drinking alcohol. If you do choose to drink, you shouldn’t drink more than 1-2 units of alcohol once or twice a week and avoid getting drunk if you're pregnant.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) also advises pregnant women to avoid alcohol during the first three months in particular, because of the increased risk of miscarriage.

How much is a unit?

One UK unit is 10ml (eight grams) of pure alcohol. Different drinks have different strengths so it can be difficult to know how many units you've had.

Below is a basic guide to the number of alcohol units in some common drinks:

  • One pint of ordinary strength beer, lager or cider = 2 units
  • One pint of strong beer, lager or cider = 3 units
  • A small (125ml) glass of wine = 1.5 units
  • A large (175ml) glass of wine = about 2 units
  • A 275ml bottle of alcopops = 1.5 units
  • A 25ml pub measure of spirits = 1 unit
  • A 50ml pub measure of fortified wine such as sherry or port = 1 unit

For more information about alcohol units, see the NHS Units Calculator on NHS Choices (external link).

It’s a good idea to have a few days each week where you don't drink at all. But don't store up your units and then binge drink at the weekends. Binge drinking is defined as:

  • if you’re a man, drinking more than eight units a day
  • if you’re a woman, drinking more than six units a day

Binge drinking can affect your personal safety and put you at risk of serious health problems.

How alcohol affects you

Alcohol can affect people in different ways. It can affect you more quickly if you:

  • have a small body frame
  • haven't eaten
  • aren’t used to drinking

Alcohol can affect women more quickly than men as they’re often smaller and their bodies contain less water.

When to get advice

You may have a problem if you:

  • feel your social life revolves around alcohol
  • drink alone or in the morning
  • can’t stop drinking once you start

Drinking too much alcohol can put you at risk of conditions such as cirrhosis of the liver and high blood pressure, as well as mental health problems.

Make an appointment to see your GP, who can refer you to someone who can help you. 

You can find out whether you are drinking more than is healthy in the Alcohol Zone.

Last Updated: 08 December 2011