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Men drink twice as much alcohol as women

Men are drinking twice as much alcohol as women according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics - 18.7 units a week, on average, compared with 9.0 units.

A report on smoking and drinking among adults, which uses data from the 2006 General Household Survey (GHS), found that men were more likely than women to have drunk alcohol on at least one day in the previous week: 71 per cent of men and 56 per cent of women had done so. Men also drank on more days of the week than women. More than one in five men (21 per cent) compared with just over one in ten women (11 per cent) had drunk on at least five of the previous seven days.

Further key findings on drinking from the report, "Smoking and drinking among Adults 2006" include:

  • Alcohol consumption in 2006 was higher in England and in Wales than in Scotland: 13.7 and 13.5 units a week, on average, respectively, compared with 11.6 units.
  • Men and women in households classified as 'routine and manual' drank less (11.6 units a week), on average, than those in other types of household. Those in 'managerial and professional' households drank the most (15.1 units a week).

Methods for calculating alcohol consumption have been updated to reflect the trend towards larger measures and stronger alcoholic drinks, especially wine. It should be noted, however, that changing the way in which alcohol consumption estimates are derived does not in itself reflect a real change in drinking among the adult population. One glass of wine (250 ml) and one pint of beer each has about 3 units of alcohol.

2006 is the first year that the new methodology has been applied to GHS data and for this reason it is not possible to compare like-with-like figures from previous years. However, estimates from the last ten years using the 'old' methodology suggest that the trend in alcohol consumption may be downward over the last few years. The proportion of men drinking more than 21 units a week on average fell from 29 per cent in 2000 to 23 per cent in 2006. There was also a fall in the proportion of women drinking more than 14 units a week (from 17 per cent in 2000 to 12 per cent in 2006). This contrasts with the longer term upward trend in consumption.

Key findings from the Drinking: adults' behaviour and knowledge in 2007 report

The ONS Omnibus survey, Drinking: adults' behaviour and knowledge in 2007, also published today, shows that 85 per cent of adults had heard of measuring alcohol consumption in units in 2007, compared with 79 per cent ten years earlier.

Furthermore, 38 per cent of those who had heard of units, reported having seen unit labelling on alcohol, up from 32 per cent a year ago and 23 per cent in 2000. The most frequently mentioned place where unit labelling had been seen was a supermarket or shop (81 per cent).

While 33 per cent of men and 22 per cent of women drank in a pub or bar in the previous week, 50 per cent of men and 52 per cent of women had drunk an alcoholic drink in their own home. Among those who had drunk alcohol in the previous week, the most common drinking companions for men and women were spouse or partner (41 per cent and 40 per cent respectively) and friends (45 per cent of male drinkers and 38 per cent of female drinkers).


The ONS has published new data on drinking and smoking from the 2006 General Household Survey (GHS). It also publishes an Omnibus survey report on drinking in 2007.

Both reports are available free on the National Statistics website.