Alcohol consumption in Great Britain has risen per head of the adult population during the post-war years, more than doubling between the mid-1950s and late 1990s, when it hit double figures for the first time. It has fallen slightly from a peak of 11.6 litres in 2004; periods of slow economic activity in recent years may have contributed to this relative decline (click on the link to download a spreadsheet of consumption trends since 1980 [UK total consumption of alcohol since 1980]). Men consume on average more than twice as much alcohol – mainly beer – on a weekly basis as women, although in terms of amounts drunk, women now purchase more units of wine than men in total. According to research company Nielsen, roughly seven in every ten wine bottles sold in Britain’s supermarkets are bought by women.

This fact is also representative of a long-term increase in the proportion of alcohol purchased from off-licenced outlets and consumed at home rather than in pubs and bars; British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) figures estimate that twice as much alcohol is now bought from off-licenced premises as from pubs and other on-licenced premises. This is thought to be due to the increased affordability of alcoholic beverages from off-licence vendors, relative to the cost of purchasing drinks in pubs and bars.