It is not medical science, but intuition and the memories of killer hangovers from previous parties that is persuading people to cut down on their drinking, according to a study by researchers at Oxford Brookes University.

Psychologists at the Headington university compared the Government’s official safe drinking guidelines to what people actually thought was okay.

The results, published by the journal Psychology & Health, which also involved researchers from the University of Liverpool, are deeply troubling.

Less then two per cent of responders said they paid any attention to official guidelines when deciding how much was too much, while only four per cent said they considered their long-term health when deciding how much to drink.

The NHS advises that to keep the “risk of alcohol-related harm low” one needs to consume no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spreading this amount over three or more days to avoid large amounts consumed on a single day.

As one unit of alcohol is a half a pint of beer or cider, a single (25 ml) shot of strong liquor or less than 100ml glass of wine, official guidelines do not even allow for a single daily drink.

The vast majority of responders admitted to settling on short-term, personal drinking thresholds based on previous experiences of ‘negative states’ related to alcohol consumption – such as hangovers, embarrassment, fear and anxiety.

Researchers said this “demonstrates a disconnect between medical conceptions of risk and the experiences that people call on to gauge when to stop drinking”.

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Dr Emma Davies, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Oxford Brooks, said: “We can see that society’s challenge is to find a way of incorporating the increasingly robust medical findings around the dangers of alcohol consumption into the actual lived experiences of people who drink.

“Drinkers create their own thresholds for what is an appropriate level of drinking, which is not based on expert guidance.”

Dr Mark Burgess, Reader in the Department of Psychology, Health and Professional Development at Oxford Brookes, said we needed a “fresh approach to public health interventions around the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption” and called for more targeted interventions.

He said: “People who have negative experiences when approaching their own ‘too much’ alcohol threshold may be more amenable to interventions as their bodies are already signalling for them to stop. However, those who have a more positive experience are likely to be less willing to change their behaviour, despite it being more important for their health to do so.”

A Public Health England evidence review from 2016 estimated the economic burden of alcohol as between 1.3-2.7 per cent of annual GDP (£21-£52 billion).