What type of drinker are you?

The effects of alcohol on our health will depend on how much we drink. The more we drink, the greater the health risk we take. In terms of risks, drinkers can be divided into three categories: 

1. Lower-risk drinkers

NHS recommendations for lower risk drinking state that:

  • men should not exceed 3-4 units a day on a regular basis
  • women should not exceed 2-3 units a day on a regular basis

Even drinking below these levels will not be advisable in some circumstances. Any drinking can still be too much if you're driving, operating machinery, about to go swimming or engaging in strenuous physical activity.

People who drink should aim to be in the lower-risk category to minimise the health risks.

2. Increasing-risk drinkers

Drinking at this level increases the risk of damaging your health. Alcohol affects all parts and systems of the body, and it can play a role in numerous medical conditions.

Increasing-risk drinking is:

  • drinking more than 3-4 units a day on a regular basis if you're a man
  • drinking more than 2-3 units a day on a regular basis if you're a woman 

If you drink these levels of alcohol, your risk of developing a serious illness is much higher compared to non-drinkers.

At these drinking levels, it's possible that you might already be suffering from alcohol-related problems; such as fatigue or depression, weight gain, poor sleep and sexual problems... Whatever your age or sex, you're probably in worse physical shape than you would be otherwise.

Something to also consider is that people argue a lot when they're drinking, which can negatively affect their relationships with family and friends.

3. Higher-risk drinkers

If you're in this group, you're at an even higher risk of damaging your health compared to increasing risk drinkers.

Higher risk drinking is:

  • regularly drinking more than 8 units a day, or more than 50 units a week if you're a man
  • regularly drinking more than 6 units a day, or more than 35 units a week if you're a woman 

Again, alcohol affects the whole body, and it can play a role in numerous medical conditions. You're at a much higher risk of developing alcohol-related health problems and your body has probably suffered some damage already, even if you're not yet aware of it.

The more you drink above the higher-risk threshold, the greater the risk to your health. Plus, you're likely to have the same problems as increasing-risk drinkers: feeling tired or depressed, or gaining extra weight.

You may be sleeping poorly or having sexual problems. And, like increasing-risk drinkers but possibly more so, you're almost definitely in worse physical shape than you would be otherwise, whatever your age or gender. You could also suffer from high blood pressure.

At these levels, your drinking may also make you argumentative, which might damage your relationships with family and friends.

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