1. ITV Report

Tonight: Britain's Secret Drinkers

Brits spend £30 billion each year on booze Photo: ITV / Tonight

It is commonly believed that Britain’s binge drinking culture is our biggest drink problem. However, health experts are warning that Britain’s home drinking habits are having a serious impact on the health of the nation and it’s largely going undetected.

Around about a quarter of the UK population are drinking more than they should and around ten per cent of the UK population are drinking more than twice as much as the government guidelines.

According to a recent study, more and more people are drinking at home on a regular basis – in some cases every night of the week. For some, it’s a reward after a long day at work, for others, it’s seen as a way of unwinding.

I have absolutely seen it move from being something for special occasions... something you do mainly at the weekends to something people consider as a normal part of their life. They would no more dream of going to the supermarket without stocking up on wine than they would going to the supermarket and not getting bread and milk.”

– Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP

Part of the problem with home drinking is that many people who drink regularly don’t see their drinking as a problem and because the liver has no pain fibres there are often no symptoms attached to liver disease until the damage has been caused.

Many people you see don't get symptoms from their liver problem until the very last stages, so it would be very typical for people just to get symptoms of liver disease when their liver is at the point of packing up.“

– Dr Harrison, liver expert

As a nation, we spend around £30 billion a year on alcohol. But when you compare that to what we say we drink, more than 40% of Britain’s booze simply goes missing. Researchers at UCL have been studying this discrepancy and have concluded that many of us are drinking more than we should.

If we take the missing units into account and among those who drank in the last week, we would see 80% of women and 75% of men drinking above the government’s recommended daily limits.”

– Dr Sadie Boniface, research author

Gillian Logan is a successful businesswoman. She works long hours as a management consultant in the food industry and frequently commutes into London from her home in Bedford. It’s a stressful job and Gillian usually unwinds with a few glasses of wine in the evening.

In the programme we monitor Gillian’s intake over a week and reveal how much she is actually drinking. We also take her to one of the leading liver experts to see how much her drinking is impacting on her health.

To find out how Gillian got on, tune in to the Tonight programme - tonight at 7.30pm on ITV – in Britain’s Secret Drinkers.


Dr Sarah Jarvis Credit: ITV / Tonight

GP Dr Sarah Jarvis advises:

Be honest with yourself. If you go on somewhere like the Drink Aware website, you can actually work out brand by brand how much alcohol is in different brands. You don't have to tell your doctor what it is, but be honest with yourself - you really need to know how much you are drinking, stop kidding yourself.

Once you have done that, I would absolutely suggest that you sit down and take a long hard think about what it is you could gain by drinking more responsibly because, frankly if you are doing it because you think you ought to or because your wife is nagging you, that's not going to work.

Sometimes its quite surprising what people can gain... So, for instance, if someone is having problems sleeping then cutting down booze can help that. It could improve the quality of their skin and stop any bloating. They can lose lots of calories as well.

Dr Nick Sheron Credit: ITV / Tonight

Liver specialist Dr Nick Sheron says :

The most important bit of giving your your body a rest from alcohol is giving your brain a rest, so resetting your tolerance. That’s what two or three alcohol free days every week does: it doesn’t do anything for your liver but it resets your brain, so that glass of wine on a Friday night still gives you a click in a way that it wouldn’t have done if you’d had a couple of glasses every night throughout the week.