Britain has the largest number of "very high risk" drinkers in Europe, a new study reveals.

Nearly 1.2 million – or just under 3 per cent of those aged 15 to 64 – are drinking at levels that are knocking two to three decades off their lives.

A "very high" level of drinking was defined as consuming the equivalent of 1.2 - 1.5 bottles of wine every day.

Researchers described this group – around a fifth of problem drinkers – as "the most severely affected population of alcohol users ....chronically intoxicated" to the extent that their organs are being poisoned and their perception is impaired on a daily basis.

A Canadian team looked at the highest-risk drinkers in Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The 2.78 per cent of the UK population classed as being ‘very high risk' was the highest of all 13 EU countries in the study.

The research is published in Addiction Biology.