Consumers drinking more responsibly, says new survey

By Ellie Bothwell

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Alcohol Wine Alcoholic beverage Alcoholism

Around a quarter of young people are 'heavy drinkers'
Around a quarter of young people are 'heavy drinkers'
An increasing number of consumers are drinking responsibly, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics.

According to a survey of UK drinking trends, the number of frequent drinkers and the number of consumers exceeding the recommended alcohol unit guidelines have both dropped.

In 2012 58% of adults (people aged 16 and over) drank alcohol at least once in the week before being interviewed, a two percentage point fall compared with 2011. Between 2005 and 2012 the proportion of men who drank alcohol at least once in the week before being interviewed fell from 72% to 64%, and the proportion of women fell from 57% to 52%.

Frequent drinkers

The proportion of adults who drank frequently - at least five days in the week before being interviewed - has also been declining. Between 2005 and 2012 there was a fall from 22% to 14% in the proportion of men who were frequent drinkers (down from 16% in 2011), and from 13% to 9% in the proportion of women. People aged 65 and over were most likely to have drank frequently in 2012. This was true for men (23%) and women (14%).

Heavy drinkers

However, young people (aged 16-24) were shown to be the heaviest drinkers, with 26% of young men drinking more than 12 units and 28% of young women drinking more than nine units at least once during the week. Only 3% of those aged 65 and over were heavy drinkers.

Very heavy drinkers were five times more likely than other drinkers to drink strong beer, stout, lager or cider and more than twice as likely to drink sprits or liqueurs. Smokers (25%) were twice as likely as non-smokers to have drunk heavily at least once during the week

'Change in attitudes'

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) welcomed the survey.

WSTA chief executive Miles Beale said: “While there is still work to be done, these figures show that responsible drinking messages are being heard and that more and more people are drinking sensibly, within the guidelines.

“Despite claims to the contrary, alcohol consumption in the UK has been falling since 2004, well before the start of the economic recession. These figures point to a much wider change in attitudes towards alcohol and responsible consumption and are to be welcomed.”

Health impact

Elaine Hindal, chief executive of alcohol education charity Drinkaware, added: “There’s an interesting dynamic between alcohol consumption and the negative health effects of alcohol. While it appears that people are drinking less overall, there is still a trend of heavy, episodic drinking among younger groups, and over half (52%) of those who say they drink on five or more days in the week are aged 45 and over.

“There is a paradox between the groups who drink heavily and those disproportionately at risk of harm from alcohol. Although those who are less well off report drinking less, we know that they are at more risk of alcohol related harm. This may be because they are more likely to have poorer health overall.

“People who drink frequently - every day or on most days of the week are just as likely as those who don’t drink as often to think they are in good health. However, the medical evidence is clear; regularly drinking above the lower-risk alcohol guidelines increases the chances of developing health problems such as liver disease and cancer.”

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