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New data published on alcohol consumption in England

Both the Health Survey for England and the Local Alcohol Profiles for England have published new statistics this week.

Health Survey for England

Summary results for adults:

  • 90% of men and 84% of women said they drank alcohol at least occasionally.

  • The majority of adults had drunk alcohol in the last week; 73% of men, 57% of women. This includes 22% of men and 13% of women who had drunk alcohol on five or more days in the last week. Frequent drinking was most common among men and women aged 45 and over and in higher income households.

  • The current recommendations for daily alcohol intake are that it should not regularly exceed three to four units for men and two to three units for women. In the last week, 42% of men and 31% of women had drunk more than the recommended maximum on at least one day.

  • 35% of men and 27% of women had drunk more than twice the recommended levels on at least one day in the last week. This was most common among the youngest age group (56% of men and 52% of women aged between 16 and 24), and declined with age.

  • On average, among those who drank in the last week, men consumed 8.5 units on the day they drank most in the last week, and women consumed 5.5 units. Average consumption was highest among young adults and declined with age.

  • When asked about measuring their intake of alcohol, most adults (92% of men and 89% of women) had heard of units. However, there was less knowledge of the recommended maximum daily intake; 35% of men and 47% of women had heard of units but said they didn’t know what the recommendations were for men, and 39% of men and 43% of women similarly knew about units but said they did not know the recommendations for women. Those who attempted to define the recommendations were more likely to be wrong than right.

Summary results for children aged 8-15:

  • These are presented with the caveat that children are likely to under-report their alcohol consumption in home-based surveys such as this one, because they may be worried about their parents seeing the answers.

  • The proportion who reported ever having had a proper alcoholic drink increased with age, from 7% of boys aged 8 to 79% of boys aged 15, and from 8% of girls aged 8 to 74% of girls aged 15. Overall, 35% of boys and 34% of girls aged 8-15 reported having experience of drinking alcohol.

  • 4% of boys and 3% of girls aged 8-15 reported usually drinking once a week or more. Frequency of drinking was clearly related to age. The proportion who reported drinking at least once a week increased from less than 1% of both boys and girls aged 8 to 21% of boys and 13% of girls aged 15 (the difference between boys and girls not being statistically significant).

  • 15% of both boys and girls aged 13-15 reported drinking alcohol in the last 7 days.

  • Consumption of each type of alcoholic drink increased with age, except for consumption of fortified wines.

  • There were some differences in the types of drinks consumed by boys and girls. Boys were more likely than girls to have drunk beer, lager, cider or shandy (12% compared with 7%), whereas girls were more likely than boys to have drunk wine (6% compared with 4%) and alcopops (8% compared with 5%).

  • 40% of boys and 41% of girls aged 13-15 said that they had been drunk in the last 12 months. In most cases they reported that their parents had been aware that they had been drunk.

The full report on the Health Survey for England can be downloaded here.

Comparisons with 2006 consumption levels.

In the age group 25-34, both men and women reported increasing numbers of people who had not drunk in the week before the survey relative to the previous year (33% vs. 28% for men and 47% vs. 41% for women). This continues a trend that has been evident since 2003 for men and since 200 for women. There was little change in the figure for other age groups.

The percentage of men drinking more than four units on the heaviest drinking day in the previous week was 42%, including 26% who drank more than eight units. 25-34 year-olds and 55-64 year-olds showed decreases in these figures relative to 2006; all other age groups showed increases. Amongst women, 31% drank more than 3 units on the heaviest day in the previous week, including 15% who drank more than 6 units. In the 25-34 year-old age group, there was a reduction in the number drinking more than 3 units since 2006; there was very little change in the other age groups.

The proportions of 8-15 year olds who said that they had ever had an alcoholic drink show generally decreasing trends since around 2001-2003. Percentages for 2003 and 2007 are given below.


Age

2003

2007

Boys

8-10

20

11


11-13

47

34


14-15

83

68

Girls

8-10

15

9


11-13

43

33


14-15

79

70

 
Trend tables can be downloaded here.

Local Alcohol Profiles for England

Local figures for a wide range of alcohol-related statistics have been released. At a regional level, the North East has the highest rates of binge drinking and alcohol-attributable hospital admissions. The North West has the highest rates of hazardous and harmful drinking (exceeding recommended limits and drinking at levels almost certain to cause harm), alcohol-attributable mortality and alcohol-specific hospital admissions for under 18 year-olds. London, whilst having the lowest level of binge drinking, has the highest level of alcohol-attributable crime.

Detailed statistics for each local authority as well as regions can be downloaded here.