Alcohol statistics

Read all the latest stats about alcohol in the UK.

Alcohol in the UK

In England there are an estimated 589,101 dependent drinkers. Less than 20% are receiving the treatment.

  • 24% of adults in England regularly drink over the Chief Medical Officer’s low-risk guidelines [1], and 27% of drinkers in Great Britain binge drink on their heaviest drinking days (over 8 units for men and over 6 units for women) [2].
  • In 2017, 20% of the population reported not drinking at all [2] and overall consumption has fallen by around 16% since 2004 [3].
  • In the UK, in 2016 there were 9,214 alcohol-related deaths (around 15 per 100,000 people). The mortality rates are highest among people aged 55-69 [4].
  • In the UK in 2017 there were 7,697 alcohol-specific deaths (around 12.2 per 100,000 people). This is the highest level since 2008 [14].
  • In England, there are an estimated 589,101 dependent drinkers (2016/17) [5], of whom 81.7% are not accessing treatment [6].
  • Alcohol misuse is the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability among 15-49 year-olds in the UK, and the fifth biggest risk factor across all ages [1].
  • While the price of alcohol has increased by 33% over the last 10 years, it remains 64% more affordable than it was in 1980 [7].

Alcohol and health

Alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions.

  • Alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions, including: mouth, throat, stomach, liver and breast cancers; high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver; and depression [1].
  • In England in 2016/17, there were an estimated 1.13 million hospital admissions related to alcohol consumption (7% of all hospital admissions), 67% higher than ten years previously. In the same period there were 337,000 admissions for conditions directly caused by alcohol, 17% higher than ten years previously [7].
  • In the UK in 2017, alcohol-specific death rates were highest among 55-59 year-old females and 60-64 year-old males [14].
  • In 2017, Scotland’s death rate was 20.5 per 100,000, England’s was 11.1 per 100,000, Wales’ was 13.5 per 100,000 and Northern Ireland’s was 17.4 per 100,000 [14].
  • Males accounted for 66% of all alcohol-related deaths in the UK in 2016 [4].
  • In England in 2016, the alcohol-related mortality rate of men in the most disadvantaged socio-economic class is 56% times higher than for men in the least disadvantaged class, while for women the figure is 50% times higher [8].
  • In England and Wales, 63% of all deaths relating to the misuse of alcohol in 2016 were caused by alcohol liver disease [9].
  • Northern Ireland’s alcohol-specific death rate was 40% higher in 2017 than in 2001 [14].
  • Scotland is the only country to experience a decrease in death rates since 2001, but still has the highest rate of alcohol-specific deaths in 2017. Scotland’s alcohol-specific death rate was 21% lower in 2017 than in 2001 [14].
  • PHE estimate that 24,202 deaths in 2017 were caused by alcohol in England [14].
  • In 2015 in Scotland, there were 3,705 deaths attributable to alcohol among adults over 16 years old which is 6.5% of the total number of deaths [14].
  • In Wales, approximately 1,500 deaths are attributable to alcohol consumption each year, which is 1 in 20 of all deaths [14].
  • Liver disease is one of the few major causes of premature mortality that is increasing, and deaths have increased by around 40% in a decade. Hospital admissions due to liver disease in England have increased by 44% in the last 8 years [8].
  • The number of older people over the age of 65 admitted to hospitals in England for alcohol-related conditions has risen by 14% since 2008/09, while alcohol-specific admissions for under-18s fell by 53% between 2008/09 and 2014/15 [8].

Treatment

In 2017/18 in England, 75,787 people were in treatment at specialist alcohol misuse services, a fall of 17% since 2013/14.

  • In 2017/18 in England, 75,787 people were in treatment at specialist alcohol misuse services, a fall of 17% since 2013/14 [10].
  • In 2016/17 in England, around 40% of people who successfully completed treatment did not return within 6 months [6].
  • The median age for people in alcohol treatment is 46, 60% of people in alcohol treatment are male, and 85% are white British, compared with 80% of the population. 6% were other white ethnicities, and 7% from non-white ethnic groups [10].
  • Around 1 in 5 people in alcohol treatment reported having a disability, which is similar to the general population [10].
  • In England, in 2017/18, females represent 40% of those in treatment, although only 23% of females in the population have problematic alcohol use [10].
  • 8,945 people in alcohol-only treatment are aged 60 years and over (11% of the total) [10].
  • In 2017, there were 173,000 alcohol-related prescription items dispensed in England, 8% lower than in 2016, but 41% higher than in 2007 [7].
  • In 2017/18, 14,805 people in alcohol treatment received pharmacological interventions, mostly to enable safe withdrawal from alcohol dependence [10].
  • Approximately 61% of clients starting treatment were self-referrals. 24% were from health services and social care, which includes 14% from GPs [10].
  • 1 in 5 people in alcohol treatment in 2017/18 in England were parents living with dependent children [10].
  • 41% of people in alcohol treatment also need mental health treatment, with 20% of them not receiving any mental health treatment [10].
  • 30% of people in alcohol treatment in England in 2017/18 dropped out before successfully completing treatment [10].

Crime

In 2015/16 in England, victims believed the offender(s) to be under the influence of alcohol in 39% of all violent incidents.

  • In 2016/17 in England and Wales, 12.4% of theft offences, 20.6% of criminal damage and 21.5% of hate crimes were alcohol-related [15].
  • In England and Wales, alcohol-related violent incidents are more likely to be reported to the police than those which are not alcohol-related [15].
  • In 2016/17 in England and Wales, in 35.8% of sexual assault cases the offender was under the influence of alcohol [15].
  • In 2015/16 in England, victims believed the offender(s) to be under the influence of alcohol in 39% of all violent incidents, down from a peak of 55% in 2009/10. In Wales, the figure is higher, at 49% in 2015/16, down from a peak of 73% in 2006/07 [11].
  • In 2014-2016 in England and Wales, alcohol-related violent incidents made up 67% of violent incidents which take place at the weekend and 68% of those which take place during the evening and night [12].
  • In 2014-2016 in England and Wales, 91% of violent incidents which took place in or near a pub or club were alcohol-related, and 67% of those which took place in public spaces were alcohol-related [12].
  • In 2016 in Great Britain, there were 9,040 drink-drive casualties and 6,070 drink-drive accidents. In the long-term, these figures have been falling since 1979 from a peak of around 31,000 casualties and 19,000 accidents, although have increased in recent years since 2013, when there were only 8,270 casualties and 5,690 accidents [13].

Drinking behaviours

Since 2005, the overall amount of alcohol consumed in the UK, the proportion of people reporting drinking, and the amount drinkers report consuming have all fallen. This trend is especially pronounced among younger drinkers.

  • Since 2005, the overall amount of alcohol consumed in the UK, the proportion of people reporting drinking, and the amount drinkers report consuming have all fallen. This trend is especially pronounced among younger drinkers.
  • In 2017 in Great Britain, an estimated 29.2 million adults drank alcohol in the week before being surveyed, 57% of the population. Around 10% drank on five or more days in the previous week.
  • In 2017, men are more likely to drink than women and those aged 45-64 are the most likely to drink, while those aged 16/24 are the least likely to drink.
  • Since 2005, teetotalism has increased among those aged 16-44, but has fallen by 5% for those aged 65 and over.
  • Although 16-24 year olds are less likely to have drunk alcohol in the past week, when they do drink, they are more likely to drink at high levels (2017).
  • 77% of the highest earners report drinking in the previous week, compared to less than 45% of the lowest earners.
  • In 2017, people in the South West of England are the most likely to report drinking in the last week, while those in the North West are most likely to binge when they do drink.
  • Those in Scotland are the most likely to binge drink, with those in England the least likely.
  • Those in England are the most likely to have drunk in the past week, with those in Wales the least likely.
  • The more money people earn, the more likely they are to drink alcohol, with around 80% of people who earn over £40,000 drinking, and only 47% of those who earn less than £10,000 drinking.

Young people

In 2016, 23% of 15 year olds reported having been drunk in the last four weeks.

  • In 2016 in England, 44% of pupils aged 11-15 in England reported having ever drunk alcohol. Of these, 15% of 11 year-olds reporting ever having drunk an alcoholic drink, compared to 73% of 15 year-olds.
  • In 2016 in England, pupils aged 11-15 who drank alcohol in the past week, consumed an average of 9.6 units.
  • Girls were more likely to have been drunk in the last four weeks than boys.
  • 23% of 15 year olds reported having been drunk in the last four weeks.
  • Of pupils who obtained alcohol in the last four weeks, 70% were given it by parents or guardians, 54% were given it by friends and 41% took it from home with permission.
  • 61% of pupils who currently drink said that they never buy alcohol.

References

[1] Burton, R. et al. (2016). The Public Health Burden of Alcohol and the Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Alcohol Control Policies: An Evidence Review.

[2] Office for National Statistics (2018). Adult drinking habits in Great Britain: 2017.

[3] British Beer and Pub Association (2016). Statistical Handbook, 2016.

[4] Office for National Statistics (2017). Alcohol-related deaths in the UK: registered in 1994 to 2016.

[5] Public Health England (2018). Estimates of alcohol dependent adults in England.

[6] Public Health England (2018). Public Health Dashboard.

[7] NHS Digital (2018). Statistics on Alcohol, England, 2018.

[8] Public Health England (2018). Local Alcohol Profiles for England.

[9] Office for National Statistics (2017). Number of deaths caused by alcoholic liver disease and other causes associated with the misuse of alcohol, deaths registered in England and Wales, 2016.

[10] Public Health England (2018). Adult Substance Misuse Statistics from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS): 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018.

[11] Office for National Statistics (2017). Estimates of Violent incidents where the victim believed the offender(s) to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs in England and Wales, year ending March 2006 to year ending March 2016 Crime Survey for England and Wales.

[12] Office for National Statistics (2017). Overview of violent crime and sexual offences.

[13] Department for Transport (2018). Estimated number of reported drink drive accidents and casualties in Great Britain: 1979-2016.

[14] ONS (2018). Alcohol-specific deaths in the UK: registered in 2017.

[15] ONS (2018). Data on alcohol related incidents, years ending March 2011 to March 2017, Crime Survey for England and Wales.