The Doctor Knows You're Lying About How Much Alcohol You Drink A Week

photographed by Anna Jay.
"And how many units of alcohol do you drink a week?"
"Um..." a pause. "Not much, maybe like, three glasses of wine a week? Small ones. Sometimes even less than that. Except, you know, if there's a birthday. Or a Tuesday - ha, amiright Doc? No, OK, not funny. I'd say like three glasses, maybe four. Absolute max."
The doctor stares at you for what seems like hours over the rims of her glasses, one eyebrow raised in a spectacularly unimpressed manner.
"Fine", she says eventually, turning back to her ancient computer and typing something into your medical chart on her clickety clackety keyboard.
"Phew," you think, "nailed it."
Telling mistruths to the doctor about how many units of alcohol we drink a week is an age-old tradition amongst Brits. Our parents did it, we do it, our kids may do it (although if recent stats about how little younger generations are drinking are anything to go by then they may have nothing to lie about at all), and it's because we feel guilty. Here is a doctor; a person whose job it is to make us well, and we appear determined to undo all of their good work via the medium of Aperol Spritzes.
Even more ridiculous is that we manage to convince ourselves that the doctors believe our lies. We believe that doctors, super smart people who've been through years of extensive training and who, last time we checked, were also human beings, are stupid enough to believe our awkward mutterings about how you intended not to drink last week but then you forgot about a hen do and Prosecco made the planned life-drawing class slightly more appealing.
Now though, a study has proved what really, deep down, we knew all along; THEY KNOW.
The 200 doctors polled for the Direct Line Life Insurance study reckon that just 40% of us are telling the truth about our alcohol intake and in fact, many of them apply an "alcohol multiplier" to our answers which sees some of them double the number of units patients give them.
The reasons they do this are varied. The alcohol multiplier comes into play not solely because they think we're lying, but because 20% of Brits admit to not keeping track of how much they drink and 30% of us have no idea what the actual recommended amount of units per week really is. As a result, many (especially women under 30) are underestimating how much it is they consume.
Whilst lying to the doctor may seem like no big deal, joking aside, drinking above the recommended number of units (FYI it's 14, which equates to a single measure of whisky, a third of a pint of beer, or half a standard glass of red wine) every week isn't a good idea. It's been linked to cancer, poor mental health, liver disease, and, more recently dementia. Lying to your doctor your alcohol consumption is a worse idea - because without the correct information, they're not going to be able to give you the best treatment possible.
If you aren't telling the truth about how much alcohol you drink because it is over the recommended amount and you're worried you can't or won't cut down, then your doctor is exactly the person you should tell, because they can recommend something to help you out.
Also, remember this: doctors have been around the block. They see everyone; from the 99 year old who's never had a drink in their life to the 16-year-old binge drinker. It takes a lot for them to be shocked and they know we're not perfect - because, surprise, they're people too.
If you are worried about your drinking and you want to do something now, visit DrinkAware to find a list of options about who to contact.

More from Body

R29 Original Series