The Non-Obsessive Way of Eating

Eating Healthy to Live Healthy

A history of advice on alcohol

It is interesting how the view on alcohol and the advise on its consumption has changed over time. 

  • 1947

Medicinal drinking


Along with the famous “Guinness is good for you” slogan, this advert from 1947 gives us a little insight into attitudes towards alcohol at the time.

  • 1981

Drinking Sensibly

The government publishes a pamphlet called Drinking Sensibly, introducing the concept to the public for the first time, following rising concern about the dangers of heavy drinking in the 1970s

  • 1984

56 drinks a week: ‘too much’

A new pamphlet from the then Health Education Council outlines safe limits for drinking for the first time: 18 “standard drinks” a week for men, and nine for women. “Too much” alcohol was defined as 56 standard drinks a week for men and 35 for women

  • 1987

Alcohol units are born

A new 1987 leaflet outlines the concept of alcohol units and reduces the 1984 guidelines to 21 units a week for men and 14 for women, to avoid damaging health. “Too much” is defined in this new pamphlet as 36 units a week for men and 22 for women. The guidance is endorsed by the three medical Royal Colleges and officially adopted by the government.

  • 1995

New daily guidelines

Following reports about the health benefits of moderate drinking in the early 1990s, a government working group publishes new daily guidelines – entitled Sensible Drinking – that effectively increase the recommended weekly limit from the 1987 guidelines: 3-4 units a day for men and no more than 2-3 for women. Everyone is advised to stay off the booze for two days after a heavy drinking session

  • 1995

Advice for pregnant women

For the first time, the Sensible Drinking report also includes advice for pregnant women: they are warned against it, especially in the first three months of the pregnancy, and advised to consume no more than 1-2 units a week if they continue to drink.

  • 2006

More advice for pregnant women…

This time, even women trying to conceive are advised to avoid drinking alcohol. But the new guidelines state that if they do choose to drink, to stick to no more than one to two units of alcohol once or twice a week

  • 2009

Guidance for children

For the first time, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for England advises that no children under the age of 15 years should consume alcohol. Between 15 to 17-year-olds were also advised not to drink, and to stick to once a week, supervised by parents or carers, if they did

  • 2012

New review commissioned

Following a government committee report, the coalition commissions a thorough review of the medical evidence concerning the links between alcohol and health, to tackle poor public understanding of – and adherence to – the current drinking guidelines

  • 2016

Three pints ‘binge drinking’

Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies publishes the UK’s first major revision of alcohol guidelines since 1995. The report says even a sherry a week could increase the risk of cancer, and that three pints is “binge drinking”