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One unit of alcohol is defined as 10 millilitres in the United Kingdom, and as 10 grams (12.7 ml) in Australia. In both countries, a so-called standard drink contains one unit of alcohol (according to the country’s own definition). The definition of a "standard drink" varies significantly in other countries.
In the United Kingdom, the number of units contained in a typical serving of an alcoholic beverage is publicised and printed on bottles.
The number of UK units of alcohol in a drink can be determined by multiplying the volume of the drink (in milliliters) by its percentage ABV, and dividing by 1000.
The formula uses ml ÷ 1000. This results in exactly one unit per percentage point per litre, of any alcoholic beverage.
Since 4% can be expressed as .04, .04 × 568 ml gives the amount of alcohol in terms of ml—which, when divided by 10, shows the number of units.
When the volume of an alcoholic drink is shown in centilitres, determining the number of units in a drink is as simple as volume × percentage (converted into a fraction of 1).
Thus, 75 centilitres of wine (the contents of a standard wine bottle) at 12% ABV contain:
It is often stated that a unit of alcohol is supplied by a small glass of wine, half a pint of beer, or a single measure of spirits. Such statements may be misleading because they do not reflect differences in strength of the various kinds of wines, beers, and spirits.
Since 1995 the UK government has advised that regular consumption of 3–4 units a day for men, or 2–3 units a day for women, would not pose significant health risks, but that consistently drinking four or more units a day (men), or three or more units a day (women), is not advisable.
Previously (from 1992 until 1995), the advice was that men should drink no more than 21 units per week, and women no more than 14. (The difference between the sexes was due to the typically lower weight and water-to-body-mass ratio of women.) This was changed because a government study showed that many people were in effect "saving up" their units and using them at the end of the week, a phenomenon referred to as binge drinking. The Times reported in October 2007 that these limits had been "plucked out of the air" and had no scientific basis.
An international study of almost 6,000 men and 11,000 women found that persons who reported that they drank more than 2 units of alcohol a day had an increased risk of fractures compared to non-drinkers. For example, those who drank over 3 units a day had nearly twice the risk of a hip fracture.