Alcohol Consumption

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United Kingdom

General Consumption

In summary, alcohol consumption is down, 'binge-drinking is down', taxes are high and hysteria is rising. Ever get the feeling you're being cheated?[1]

Portman Group report, Apr 2011

The Portman Group released in April 2011, a Fact Sheet stating

The UK’s alcohol consumption has fluctuated considerably over the past 100 years or so. In 1900 it stood at approximately 11 litres of pure alcohol annually per head of population. By 1950 it had dropped to below 4 litres. By 2000 it had risen again to over 8 litres and it currently stands at 8.9 litres.

Changes in the proportion of children in the population may affect the per capita consumption figure; it is therefore useful to measure consumption per adult head of population. This currently stands at 10.7 litres.

This is based on tax receipts, rather than self-reported via consumer surveys. The chose the former since they consider self-reporting to be the less accurate measure (due to bias due to under-reporting for example.)

They also show that average consumption in the UK over 23 years since 1986 (-2009) has remained fairly static, peaking in 2004/5 and declining since:

1986-2009 uk consumption.png

They also show that UK consumption is mid-range compared to the rest of Europe:

European consumption.png

The trend has continued into 2011

New figures for UK alcohol consumption in 2011 show that the amount Britons drink has fallen yet again – for the fifth year out of the past seven.

Consumption per head is now 13% lower than it was in 2004 when the current trend began, says the British Beer & Pub Association, which has compiled the new data based on HMRC alcohol tax returns.

The figures confirm trends unveiled yesterday by the Office of National Statistics, which also show that binge drinking is falling across all categories of drinkers, by sex and age.

Drinking above weekly guidelines among young men, for example, is down from 32% to 21% compared with five years prior to 2011.[2]

The Government's General Lifestyle Survey, 2010[3]

The General Lifestyle Survey, 2010[3] discusses the change in alcohol consumption between 2005 and 2010. In general:

Between 2005 and 2010 average weekly alcohol consumption decreased from 14.3 units to 11.5 units per adult. Among men average alcohol consumption decreased from 19.9 units to 15.9 units a week and for women from 9.4 units to 7.6 units a week.

Since 2005 the GHS/GLF has shown a decline in the proportion of men drinking more than 21 units of alcohol a week and in the proportion of women drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week. The proportion of men drinking more than 21 units a week fell from 31 per cent in 2005 to 26 per cent in 2010 and the proportion of women drinking more than 14 units a week fell from 21 per cent to 17 per cent over the same period. These changes were driven by falls in the younger age groups. Among men, the percentage drinking more than 21 units of alcohol a week decreased in the 16 to 24 age group (from 32 per cent to 21 per cent) and in the 25 to 44 age group (from 34 per cent to 27 per cent). Falls were also present among women; the percentage drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week fell in the 25 to 44 age group from 25 per cent to 19 per cent.

When using the average weekly consumption measure, heavy drinking is defined as consuming more than 50 units a week for men and consuming more than 35 units a week for women. There have been falls in the proportions of both men and women who drink heavily since 2005. The estimates for men fell from 9 per cent to 6 per cent and for women fell from 5 per cent to 3 per cent from 2005 to 2010.

And on the "7 days prior to interview":

The proportion of men who reported drinking alcohol in the seven days before interview fell from 72 per cent in 2005 to 67 per cent in 2010. Similarly, the proportion of women who reported drinking alcohol in the seven days before interview fell from 57 per cent to 53 per cent over the same period. In addition, the proportion of men who reported drinking alcohol on at least five days in the week before interview fell from 22 per cent in 2005 to 17 per cent in 2010. The proportion of women reporting drinking alcohol on at least five days in the week before interview fell from 13 per cent to 10 per cent over the same period. Table 2.3

There is a downward trend in the proportions of men exceeding four units and women exceeding three units on their heaviest drinking day in the week before interview. The proportion of men exceeding four units on their heaviest drinking day was 41 per cent in 2005 and 36 per cent in 2010. The proportion of women exceeding three units was 34 per cent in 2005 and 28 per cent in 2010.

The estimates for heavy drinking follow a similar pattern. When using the heaviest drinking day in the last week measure, heavy drinking is defined as exceeding twice the Government daily benchmarks on a single day: more than 8 units of alcohol on that day for men and consuming more than 6 units on that day for women. The proportion of men drinking more than 8 units on their heaviest drinking day fell from 23 per cent in 2005 to 19 per cent in 2010. The corresponding estimates for women drinking heavily (more than 6 units) were 15 per cent in 2005 and 13 per cent in 2010.

Furthermore:

The most pronounced changes have occurred in the 16 to 24 age group. Among men in this age group, the proportion drinking more than 4 units on their heaviest drinking day fell from 46 per cent in 2005 to 34 per cent in 2010 and the proportion drinking more than 8 units decreased from 32 per cent to 24 per cent over the same period. There have also been marked falls for women in this age group with the proportion drinking more than 3 units on their heaviest drinking day falling from 41 per cent in 2005 to 31 per cent in 2010 and the proportion drinking more than 6 units falling from 27 per cent to 17 per cent.

References