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.”
The report is on the ONS website.
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.
The ONS survey covers Great Britain only.
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