Some 28.9 million people in Great Britain, or 58% of the adult population, drank at least some alcohol in the week before being interviewed, according to a 2014 survey on drinking habits published today by the Office for National Statistics. This proportion is down from 64% in 2005.

In 2014, of those who had drunk alcohol in the previous week, some 45%, or 12.9 million people, drank more than 4.67 units – a third of the new weekly guideline – on their heaviest drinking day. Moreover, 2.5 million people, or 9% of drinkers, had drunk more than 14 units – the new weekly recommended limit – in a single day.

Young people were less likely to have drunk alcohol in the previous week than older groups, with less than half of 16 to 24-year-olds reporting doing so, compared with 66% of 45 to 64-year-olds. Moreover, for the younger group, the proportion who had drunk alcohol had fallen from 60% in 2005, whereas there had been only a small decline for the older group, down from 69%over the same period. However, those who did drink were more likely than any other group to drink more than 14 units in one day – 17% of the 16 to 24s, compared with 11% for the next highest group, the 25 to 44-year-olds.

Men were more likely to have drunk alcohol than women, with 64% of men but only 53% of women having drunk alcohol at least once. Over half (52%) of those men had drunk more than 4.67 units on their heaviest day, compared with a little more than a third (37%) of women drinkers.

The highest percentages who had drunk alcohol in the previous week were in the South East (62%) and the South West (62%). London had the lowest percentage, at 51%, followed by Wales (53%). However, Wales also had the highest percentage of people who had drunk more than the new weekly guideline in a single day (14%), followed by Scotland (13%).

ONS statistician Jamie Jenkins said: “It’s clear from these figures that although there are now more people, especially younger ones, who don’t drink alcohol at all, there is still a significant group of other people who are drinking well in excess of the latest health advice.”

Background notes

  1. The report is on the ONS website.

  2. The new government guidance, published on 8 January 2016, is that both men and women do not drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread over at least three days. These 14 units equate to six pints of 4% beer, six 175ml glasses of 13% wine or 14 25ml glasses of 40% spirits.

  3. The ONS survey covers Great Britain only.

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  5. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available from the media relations office.

  6. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference. © Crown copyright 2016.

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