How many years have you lost from your life due to drinking?

Drinkers who ignore alcohol consumption guidelines could be cutting years off their lives, researchers say.

A study of nearly 600,000 people found those drinking more than 100g of alcohol every week - the equivalent of five 175ml glasses of wine or pints of beer - were at an increased risk of early death.

The findings support recently lowered guidelines in the UK, which recommend that both men and women should not drink more than 14 units or 112g of pure alcohol in a week.

This equates to around six pints of 4% strength beer or six 175ml glasses of 13% wine.

The international study, published in the Lancet journal, also found drinking more alcohol gave a greater risk of suffering a stroke, heart failure, and fatal aneurysm.

People exceeding 350g a week, 18 pints of beer, a week could shed five years off their life. Credit: PA

What are the risks of excessive drinking?

The study uses a 40-year-old consuming 0-100g of alcohol per week (up to 5 pints of beer or standard 175ml glasses of wine) as the baseline for comparison.

  • If you drink between 100-200g per week regularly - the equivalent of 5 to 10 pints of beer or glasses of wine, life expectancy at the age of 40 falls by approximately 6 months.

  • If you drink between 200-350g per week regularly - the equivalent of 10 to 18 pints of beer or glasses of wine, life expectancy at the age of 40 falls by 1-2 years.

  • If you drink more than 350g per week regularly - the equivalent of more than 18 pints of beer or glasses of wine, life expectancy at the age of 40 falls by 4-5 years.

The study shows the impact of excessive drinking at a range of ages. Credit: The Lancet

Lead author, Dr Angela Wood, of the University of Cambridge, said: "The key message of this research for public health is that, if you already drink alcohol, drinking less may help you live longer and lower your risk of several cardiovascular conditions."

The study also found that alcohol consumption was linked to a lower risk of non-fatal heart attacks but experts said "on balance" there are no health benefits from drinking.

The authors of the study, funded by various institutions including the UK Medical Research Council, said recommended alcohol limits should be lowered to around 100g or 12.5 units per week in many countries.

UK guidelines were changed in 2016 to 14 units every week for men and women, lower than the limits in Italy, Portugal and Spain.

The upper recommended limit for men in the US is almost 25 units of alcohol per week.

Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said the study seemed to "broadly reinforce" government guidelines in the UK.

But she added: "This doesn't mean we should rest on our laurels, many people in the UK regularly drink over what's recommended.

"We should always remember that alcohol guidelines should act as a limit, not a target and try to drink well below this threshold."