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Drink diary data tells us people consume more than they think

The latest findings on alcohol consumption from the newly published Health Survey for England show a variation between the amount of alcohol people claim to drink and how much they actually drink.

The 2011 survey introduced a drink diary chapter for the first time, a new method of recording the consumption habits of respondents with the aim of gathering a more accurate data on weekly drinking levels and patterns.

The data showed that the average number of days people say they drink in the week was higher when recorded in a drinking diary (at 3.4 for men and 2.9 for women), compared to when reported in a survey interview (3.2 for men and 2.8 for women).

However, the new data does not appear to affect the revised trend tables published today. The proportion of both men and women consuming more than the recommended guidelines (4 units for men, 3 for women) on the heaviest day’s drinking in the last week remains at 39% and 28% respectively, showing no change from 2010 figures. The proportion of men and women drinking over twice the recommended unit levels fell by 1% over the same period, from 23% to 22% and 14% to 13% respectively.

General consumption patterns remain the same a previous years. Young adults are more likely to drink heavily (binge) on a single occasion, but drink on fewer days in the week. Adults over 45 are more likely to drink on most days, but tend to drink less per day. Those from higher socio-economic groups are more likely to drink above the guidelines and do so more regularly. Men drink significantly more than women across most age groups.

1. You can find a comprehensive account of the trend data by following this link.

2. The key summary of all the Health Survey’s findings is here.