Alcohol risk limits

Alcohol risk limits are defined in terms of daily or weekly servings of alcohol. Those who consume large quantities of alcohol have a greater risk of experiencing its harmful effects. In addition to alcohol consumption volumes, other individual factors can also increase the risk of harmful effects.

Alcohol risk limits in terms of alcohol servings

For men, high-risk alcohol consumption has been judged to be 6–7 servings per day or 23–24 servings per week. For women, the corresponding amounts are 5–6 servings per day or 12–16 servings per week. Reaching these figures is already cause for alarm and you should intervene in alcohol use by this point at the latest.

A moderate risk level is 14 servings per week for men and 7 for women.

The risk limits for elderly people are noticeably lower than those for healthy adults of working age. For over-65s, the risk limit for alcohol consumption is 2 servings in one sitting or 7 servings per week. Read more about the effects of alcohol on the elderly.

Under some circumstances, there are no safe limits for alcohol consumption. For example, drinking alcohol during pregnancy can have serious consequences for your unborn child. It is therefore recommended that you quit drinking alcohol completely when you start planning a pregnancy. Read more about the effects of alcohol on pregnancy.

How much is one serving of alcohol?

One serving of alcohol contains about 12 grams of pure alcohol. Some examples of one serving are:

  • 1 bottle (0.33 litres) of medium-strength beer or cider
  • 1 glass (12 cl) of wine
  • 1 glass (8 cl) of fortified wine
  • 1 shot (4 cl) of spirits

You can use AddictionLink’s Standard Drink Counter to help you calculate serving volumes.

The harmful effects of alcohol

Alcohol consumption can cause health, social and financial problems. Moderate users have a minor risk of experiencing harmful effects, but the probability of problems increases for those who exceed the risk limits. Many individual factors also affect your susceptibility to these risks, such as genotype, gender, body size, health, and a variety of medication.

Alcohol is a factor in many illnesses. Those who consume large quantities of alcohol take two to three times as many sick days as moderate users or teetotallers. Regular alcohol consumption may also expose you to the risk of alcoholism, that is, a dependency on alcohol.

In addition to health risks, alcohol also increases the risk of accidents and death. Alcohol impairs your ability to function, and can lead to drowning, falls and traffic accidents. In fatal accidents involving those of working age, intoxicants (including alcohol) are a contributing factor in no less than two out of three incidents.

Read more about the harmful effects of alcohol and alcohol-related illnesses.

Article sources:
Duodecim Current Care Guidelines
Finnish Institute for health and welfare