The Health Survey for England – 2012 suggests that the level of risky drinking remains constant among regular drinkers, despite slight falls in the proportion of drinkers and the frequency of drinking compared with previous years.

Released today, the report’s findings highlighted particular drinking patterns between age groups and both sexes amidst a backdrop of decreasing overall consumption in England.

For example, among those who drunk alcohol in the last week, 55 per cent of men and 53 per cent of women drank above the recommended daily amounts, including 31 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women who drank more than twice this. 45–54 year-olds were most likely to exceed these guidelines on their heaviest drinking day of week (44% men, 35% women), and the proportion of those who drank most often was highest among those over 55 years of age. Almost a quarter of men (24%) and a fifth of women (18%) drank at an increased risk level (21 and 14 units a week respectively) on a weekly basis, a similar level to last year.

These key figures were set against a gradually declining trend in overall consumption, which may be due in part to the current economic climate of austerity in Britain. The data also hint at a more acute level of risky alcohol consumption among fewer drinkers. For example, the trend tables showed that the 16–24 year-old age group had the lowest proportion of men who drank in the last week (43%), but also the highest proportion of men most likely to drink twice above the recommended daily guidelines on their heaviest drinking day of the week (27%).

The Department of Health advises men consume no more than 4 units in any given day, women no more than 3 units, and for all drinkers to have at least 2 alcohol-free days a week.

The Health Survey for England – 2012 report and trend tables are available to download from the Health & Social Care Information Centre website (Alcohol consumption: Chapter 6).