Low-risk alcohol drinking advice

HPA’s alcohol drinking advice is designed to help you make an informed choice and help keep your risk of alcohol-related accidents, injuries, diseases and death low.

Low-risk is not no-risk. Even when drinking within low-risk limits, a range of factors can affect your level of risk, including the rate of drinking, your body type or genetic makeup, your gender, existing health problems and if you are young or an older person.

Advice for adults

Reduce your long-term health risks by drinking no more than:

  • two standard drinks a day for women and no more than 10 standard drinks a week
  • three standard drinks a day for men and no more than 15 standard drinks a week

AND at least two alcohol-free days every week.

Reduce your risk of injury on a single occasion of drinking by drinking no more than:

  • four standard drinks for women on any single occasion
  • five standard drinks for men on any single occasion.

There are times and circumstances when it is advisable not to drink alcohol.

Do not to drink if you:

  • could be pregnant, are pregnant or trying to get pregnant
  • are on medication that interacts with alcohol
  • have a condition made worse by drinking alcohol
  • feel unwell, depressed, tired or cold as alcohol could make things worse
  • are about to operate machinery or a vehicle or do anything that is risky or requires skill.​

Advice for women who could be pregnant, are pregnant or trying to get pregnant

Stop drinking alcohol.

There is no known safe level of alcohol use at any stage of pregnancy. 

For more information on alcohol and pregnancy


Advice for parents of children and young people under 18 years

Not drinking alcohol is the safest option for children and young people under 18 years.

  • Those under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking alcohol and not drinking in this age group is especially important.
  • For young people aged 15 to 17 years, the safest option is to delay drinking for as long as possible.

If 15 to 17 year olds do drink alcohol, they should be supervised, drink infrequently and at levels usually below and never exceeding the lower adult daily limits. 

Tips for low-risk drinking

There are a number of things you can do to make sure you and others stay within low-risk levels.

These include:

  • know what a standard drink is
  • keep track of how much you drink - daily and weekly
  • set limits for yourself and stick to them
  • start with non-alcoholic drinks and alternate with alcoholic drinks
  • drink slowly
  • try drinks with a lower alcohol content
  • eat before or while you are drinking
  • never drink and drive
  • be a responsible host
  • talk to your kids about alcohol.

Find backgound information about how this advice was developed.

Need help to cut down or stop drinking?

If you or someone you know needs support and treatment to stop drinking or cut back, call the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797, visit their website, or free txt 8681 for free and confidential advice.