Government figures show extent of summer holiday drinking

In collaboration with the Press Association

New figures from the 'Know Your Limits' campaign show that many Britons drink excessive amounts of alcohol on their summer holidays.

The campaign, which is a joint Department of Health and Home Office initiative, commissioned ICM Research to conduct a survey of 3,535 adults in England, 1,611 of whom had been on a summer holiday this year.

More than a quarter of holidaymakers - 27 per cent - told researchers that they had consumed three or more times their usual amount of alcohol while on holiday.

Beer drinkers typically consumed five pints a day; wine lovers drank around four standard glasses; and the average amount of spirits consumed was five mixer drinks per day.

Overall, typical holidaymakers each consumed 80 alcoholic beverages over the course of a ten-day holiday, meaning that the average person drank between 227 and 240 units of alcohol (22.7 to 24 per day).

NHS guidelines suggest that men should consume no more than three to four units of alcohol per day on a regular basis, while women should limit themselves to between three and four units per day.

The findings are a concern as excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of a number of serious illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, liver disease and various forms of cancer.

Six per cent of cancer deaths can be attributed to alcohol, which raises the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx (upper throat), oesophagus, larynx (voice box), breast, bowel and liver.

However, the survey suggests that most people recognise the fact that alcohol is bad for their long-term health as 19 per cent of respondents said they planned to take two alcohol-free days per week in September; 22 per cent are going out less than before; and 12 per cent do not expect to drink any alcohol at all next month.

Yinka Ebo, Cancer Research UK's health information officer, said: "It can be easy for people to lose track of just how much alcohol they're drinking - especially on holiday. This is worrying because drinking alcohol increases the risk of several different cancers, including breast and mouth cancer.

"The more you cut down on alcohol, the more you reduce your risk of cancer and there is limited risk if you only drink a little - such as one small drink a day for women or two for men."

Public Health Minister Gillian Merron commented: "It's all too easy to slip into the habit of drinking too much on holiday. And it's always hard to get back into a normal routine. But we should try to use September as the new January and make a pledge to be a little more healthy.

"Our survey showed that people across the country will be making a fresh start this September and are thinking about how they can change their drinking habits to get healthier.

"Sticking within the NHS's recommended daily limits means you reduce your risk of serious conditions such as liver disease, cancer and stroke."

Dr Chris Steele added: "Cutting back on alcohol for September is a great place to start - if you find yourself drinking all or most days of the week, start by taking at least two days off each week.

"It can benefit your skin and sleep, and in years to come you'll have limited the risk of the damage you'd be doing to your internal organs each time you drank."