Concerns about health and looks are driving thousands to cut back on booze

Men are worried that drinking too much alcohol will give them a beer belly or man boobs according to a new survey for the Know Your Limits campaign published today.

Released during Men's Health Week, the statistics show that watching the waistline is no longer only the preserve of women, with more than one in three men (37%) claiming they would reduce their drinking to cut down on the number of calories they consume. Only money-saving (44%) is a bigger incentive.

The YouGov survey of almost 1,000 male drinkers over 18 in England revealed:

- One in six men (17%) are worried their drinking will lead to man boobs
- One in four (27%) are worried about getting a beer belly
- More than one in eight (13%) think their boozing is affecting their appearance
- Nearly one in ten (9%) worry that excessive drinking is affecting their sexual performance

The NHS recommends men do not regularly drink more than 3-4 units a day - equivalent to less than two pints of normal strength beer. According to the Office of National Statistics, an estimated 6.3 million men in England regularly drink above these limits*.

The YouGov survey revealed more than one in three men (36%) are worried booze is risking their long-term health, and more than one in five (22%) already feel it is affecting their general health and wellbeing.

But awareness of the specific health risks is generally worse among men than women. While most men (73%) were aware of the increased risk of liver disease associated with drinking above the recommended limits, 83% didn't know about the link with mouth cancer, 84% were equally unaware of the risk of throat cancer, and two-thirds (66%) were blind to the increased risk of stroke.

Encouragingly, when told about these risks, more than a quarter (28%) said it made them keener to cut down.

Public Health Minister, Gillian Merron said:

"Our survey shows that more and more men are worried about alcohol ruining their looks. It is encouraging that they are also thinking about their health. Men who drink too much are at risk of conditions such as liver disease and stroke, as well as getting out of shape.

"Unfortunately, the longer-term effect drinking too much can have on your health is harder to spot until it's too late.

"Our Know Your Limits campaign arms people with the facts about how many units are in their favourite drinks, to help them keep a check on how much they drink each day."

Dr Ian Banks, President of the Men's Health Forum, is backing the Government's Know Your Limits campaign.

He said: "It's clear men are more concerned about the impact of their drinking on their bodies than we might imagine. Many of us only begin to see the visual evidence of our drinking habits as we get older and start to carry excess baggage, but excessive drinking can also take its toll beneath the skin.

"Most of us enjoy a drink from time to time, and that's fine. But more men ought to be aware that drinking a couple of pints of beer or sharing a bottle of wine most days of the week can push them over the recommended limits, increasing their risk of liver disease, cancer, heart disease and stroke."

Chris Sorek, Chief Executive of the DrinkAware Trust said: "Men are clearly worried about how alcohol affects their looks so Men's Health Week is an ideal opportunity to get back into shape and start calculating alcohol calories on Drinkaware's website.

"Whether it's drinking with friends in the pub or relaxing at home, it's crucial men keep track of units to avoid their looks deteriorating and serious health problems including liver and heart disease, cancer, and reduced fertility. Sticking to the recommended daily unit guidelines, taking 48 hours off after a heavy session and doing regular exercise will also help men keep the beer belly - and major illnesses - at bay."

In 2007/08, there were more than 863,000 alcohol-related hospital admissions, an increase of 69% since 2002/03. Of these, 62% were for men.

Fewer than a third of men (31%) in the YouGov survey reported keeping track of their units. But a drinks calculator at does the maths for you, helping drinkers stick within their limits.

Department of Health, UK