Almost quarter of people in France drink more alcohol than recommended

Santé publique France advises that people do not drink more than 10 units of alcohol per week, but found that a significant percentage regularly exceeds that amount

11 November 2021
A man looking fed up with a drink in front of him

Unemployed men are among the groups more likely to drink excessively Pic: fizkes / Shutterstock

By Hannah Thompson

Almost a quarter of people in France aged 18-75 drink too much and regularly exceed recommended alcohol limits, new health figures suggest.

Health authority Santé publique France highlighted the figures for 2020 in its latest health barometer, which was published this week. The barometer studies topics such as nutrition, tobacco and alcohol use, wellbeing, sleep, lifestyle, and vaccine practices.

The results showed that 23.7% of people in France aged 18-75 exceed national recommended limits on the consumption of alcohol, as established by the authority in conjunction with l'Institut national du cancer in 2017.

And while the statistic has been dubbed ‘worrying’, it has remained stable in the past few years, rising just 0.1% since 2017, when the figure was 23.6%.

Gender, age, and income split

Men are more likely than women to exceed the recommended levels, with 33.2% of men drinking too much compared to 14.7% of women. These numbers have also remained stable since 2017 (33.4% and 14.3% respectively).

Drinking habits differ considerably by age, with young people more likely to drink less frequently, but drink much more when they do consume.

Socio-economic status also has an impact. 

These sections of society are more likely than others to drink too much:

  • Women with a high-level degree

  • Unemployed men

  • Men and women on high incomes

Recommended levels

Santé publique France recommends that people do not drink more than 10 units (“standard drinks”) of alcohol per week.

The authority stated: “If you drink alcohol, it is recommended to limit your health risks over your lifetime: to consume no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 2 standard drinks per day.”

It also recommends that people have days in the week without drinking any alcohol at all.

It added that the new findings would “help improve targeting of prevention campaigns, while taking into account social health inequality.”

10-year health plan

It comes less than six months after the French government announced a long-term plan aimed at reducing the number of avoidable cancers, including those caused by excess alcohol consumption.

The plan aims to reduce avoidable cancers by 60,000 a year by 2040.  

Tobacco is the main cause of the illness, with alcohol second, followed by poor diet, and then lack of exercise. Studies carried out as part of the plan found that in France, 10% of adults drink 68% of all alcohol sold.

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