The Portman Group has launched a new infographic video on drinking trends in the UK. The video uses official UK government statistics to provide an overview of patterns of alcohol consumption, including binge drinking, underage drinking, alcohol-related crime and drink driving.

In the last decade alcohol consumption has fallen by almost a fifth and today we drink the same amount as we did in 1979. We drink less, and less frequently, than we did ten years ago and harmful consumption patterns like binge drinking have fallen. Among children, underage drinking has been in substantial decline alongside a decline in the number of children who think its ok to drink. We also know that alcohol-related crime has fallen (although alcohol is still linked to about half of all violent incidents) and that drink driving has halved in the last decade, continuing a decline that started in the 1980s.

The video is based on data collected by official UK government agencies including the Office of National Statistics (ONS), Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) and the Department for Transport (DfT):

Alcohol Consumption:

  • Around 40 million adults in the UK choose to drink. Around 10 million adults are teetotal. (ONS)
  • Alcohol consumption has fluctuated in the last 100 years – today we drink about the same as we did 30 years ago but more than we did in the 1960s. (HMRC, BBPA)
  • In the last decade alcohol consumption has fallen by 18%. (HMRC, BBPA)
  • Today, the UK drinks less alcohol than 16 other European countries: Germany, France, Portugal, Ireland , Poland, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Croatia, Finland, Latvia, Serbia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Lithuania (World Health Organisation)

Drinking patterns:

  • Overall the proportion of adults drinking in the last week has declined by 9% since 2005. (ONS)
  • The proportion of adults who drank on five or more day in the last week has declined by 33% since 2005. (ONS)
  • Overall, binge drinking (more than 6 units for women or 8 units for men in a single occasion) has fallen by 14% since 2005. Binge drinking among the 16-24 and 25-44 age groups has fallen 33% and 20% respectively. However, binge drinking among the 45-64 age group has increased by 6%. (ONS)
  • Harmful drinking (more than 9 units for women or 12 units for men in a single occasion) has fallen by 22% since 2005 (ONS)
  • On average, 76% of adults (84% of women and 68% of men) do not exceed low risk guidelines – 14 units per week (HSCIC)
  • 64% of those who are employed consumed alcohol in the last week, compared with 43% of those who are unemployed (ONS)
  • On their heaviest drinking day in the last week, adults from the highest income quintile consumed on average 3.0 units, compared to 2.8 units among those from the lowest income quintile. (HSCIC)
  • 71% of those in managerial and professional occupations drank alcohol in the last week, compared with 55% of adults in routine and manual occupations. (ONS)

Underage Drinking:

  • The proportion of children (11-15 years old) who have had an alcoholic drink has declined 38% since 2004 (HSCIC)
  • In the last decade, the proportion of secondary school pupils who thought it was OK to try alcohol has fallen by 28% (HSCIC)
  • In the last decade, the proportion of secondary school pupils who thought it was OK to get drunk has fallen by 42% (HSCIC)
  • Of the minority of children that do drink alcohol, 56% say they do so with their parents. (HSCIC)

Alcohol-related crime:

  • The number of violent incidents committed by offenders perceived to be under the influence of alcohol has fallen by 40% since 2007. (ONS)
  • The proportion of people witnessing alcohol-related anti-social behaviour has fallen 18% since 2011/12 (since data collection began) (ONS)
  • The proportion of people who found alcohol-related anti-social behaviour to be a ‘very’ or ‘fairly big’ problem in their area has fallen by 25% since 2005/6. (ONS)
  • Alcohol is still associated with 47% of all violent crime (ONS)

Drink Driving:

  • The total number of drink driving casualties (slight, serious and killed) has fallen by 52% since 2004. (DfT)
  • The number of drink-driving deaths has fallen by 85% since 1979 (DfT)
  • The total number of drink driving accidents (slight, serious and killed) has fallen by 50% since 2004. (DfT)
  • The number of killed and seriously injured casualties in reported accidents involving young drivers and riders (17-24 years old) over the legal alcohol limit has declined by 62% since 2004. (DfT)

Commenting on the launch of the video, Portman Group Chief Executive, Henry Ashworth, said:

“We are seeing significant declines in harmful patterns of drinking in the UK. The official government statistics show that today the vast majority of adults are drinking safely and sensibly, and binge – drinking, underage drinking and alcohol-related crime have been declining for a decade. In the debate about alcohol in our society these sustained and welcome trends are so often overlooked. Public, private and third sector organisations are working hard to reduce alcohol misuse and it’s time their achievements were given proper recognition.

There is still work to do. We should not forget that whilst the national picture is generally improving, there are still communities that suffer disproportionately from alcohol misuse. Alcohol is still linked to about half of all violent incidents and alcohol-related hospital admissions are increasing among older age groups. These challenges need targeted, local interventions built on strong, effective partnerships between local authorities, health services, police, businesses and the voluntary sector. By working together, we can support those communities that need help and continue the positive trends we have seen over the last ten years.”

Infographic video on drinking trends in the UK

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