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Home > Short-term effects of announcing revised lower risk national drinking guidelines on related awareness and knowledge: a trend analysis of monthly survey data in England.

Holmes, John and Brown, Jamie and Meier, Petra and Beard, Emma and Michie, Susan and Buykx, Penny (2016) Short-term effects of announcing revised lower risk national drinking guidelines on related awareness and knowledge: a trend analysis of monthly survey data in England. BMJ Open, 6, (e013804), . 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-013804.

External website: http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/12/e013804.full

Objectives: To evaluate short-term effects of publishing revised lower risk national drinking guidelines on related awareness and knowledge. To examine where drinkers heard about guidelines over the same period.

Design: Trend analysis of the Alcohol Toolkit Study, a monthly repeat cross-sectional national survey.
Setting: England, November 2015 to May 2016.
Participants: A total of 11 845 adults (18+) living in private households in England.
Intervention: Publication of revised national drinking guidelines in January 2016 which reduced the male guideline by approximately one-third to 14 units per week.

Measurements: Whether drinkers (1) had heard of drinking guidelines (awareness), (2) stated the guideline was above, exactly or below 14 units (knowledge) and (3) reported seeing the stated guideline number of units in the last month in each of 11 locations (exposure). Sociodemographics: sex, age (18–34, 35–64, 65+), social grade (AB, C1C2, DE). Alcohol consumption derived from graduated frequency questions: low risk (<14 units/week), increasing/high risk (14+ units/week).

Results: Following publication of the guidelines, the proportion of drinkers aware of guidelines did not increase from its baseline level of 85.1% (CI 82.7% to 87.1%). However, the proportion of male drinkers saying the guideline was 14 units or less increased from 22.6% (CI 18.9% to 26.7%) in December to 43.3% (CI 38.9% to 47.8%) in January and was at 35.6% (CI 31.6% to 39.9%) in May. Last month exposure to the guidelines was below 25% in all locations except television/radio where exposure increased from 33% (CI 28.8% to 36.2%) in December to 65% (CI 61.2% to 68.3%) in January. Awareness and knowledge of guidelines was lowest in social grade DE and this gap remained after publication.

Conclusions: Publication of new or revised lower risk drinking guidelines can improve drinkers’ knowledge of these guidelines within all sociodemographic groups; however, in the absence of sustained promotional activity, positive effects may not be maintained and social inequalities in awareness and knowledge of guidelines are likely to persist.


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