Press release: The average drinker spends an estimated £62,899 on alcohol over the course of a lifetime

June 2023 | 9 minutes

A new survey, commissioned by charity Alcohol Change UK, shows the average drinker in the UK spends around £62,899 on alcohol over the course of a lifetime.

The survey [1] also revealed that one in five drinkers (19%) considered alcohol to be an “essential” item in their shopping basket. This rises to 39% of drinkers considered to be at increasing risk [2] of alcohol harm, and 65% at high risk [3].

And one in ten (9%) drinkers said they have prioritised buying alcohol over essential items. This rises to 19% for those drinking at increasing risk, and 25% for those at high risk of alcohol harm. Whereas a quarter (26%) said they have deliberately bought less alcohol.

The survey has been carried out to mark the start of Alcohol Awareness Week, led by Alcohol Change UK, which takes place from 3-9 July on this year’s theme of ‘alcohol and cost’.

Among those who drink, one in seven (15%) said that in the last six months they have been worried about how much they are drinking. The same proportion (15%) have also been worried, in the last six months, about the amount of alcohol someone in their household has been drinking.

Having more opportunities to socialise (32%), work and home pressures (28%), relationship problems (16%), and trying to cope with financial worries (16%), were some of the reasons cited for causing some people to drink more than previously in the past six months.

Those that are now drinking less, in the past six months, said that they did so for physical and mental health reasons (44%), and due to the cost-of-living (34%).

In support of this year’s Alcohol Awareness Week, Alcohol Change UK is encouraging people to think about the cost of alcohol to us all in the form of health problems, financial worries, relationship breakdown and family difficulties. And to recognise and talk about the way your own or someone else’s drinking might be affecting you and those around you.

Opening up about your drinking can be an important first step in helping you to consider making some changes for a healthier and happier life.

Susan's story

Watch Susan's story on how alcohol nearly cost her everything.

Dr Richard Piper, Chief Executive of Alcohol Change UK, said: 

 “The average UK adult spends a huge amount of money on alcohol in a lifetime. But what do we really get back from all that expenditure?

 “Alcohol can bring some short-term pleasure to some of us, but by its very nature it can encourage us to ‘overdo it’, whether on a particular night out or through everyday drinking becoming a regular habit. It puts our health, relationships, and safety at risk. It can harm our physical and mental health; and those around us - as well as our wallets. 

 “Consuming alcohol puts us at greater risk of heart disease, liver disease, stroke, increased blood pressure, and cancer, including throat cancer and breast cancer. It can cause tensions and disagreements with those around us and put a major strain on our finances.

 “By taking control of our drinking, whatever that means to us, we can save money, improve our health, have more energy, improve our memory, have better sleep, reduce anxiety, improve our mood, and have better relationships. 

 “A great way to start is by recording what you drink for a few weeks to help you understand your drinking pattern, then setting yourself some small achievable goals to cut back. Join over half a million people who’ve downloaded the free Try Dry® app: it really helps.” 

It’s vital that anyone who is struggling with their drinking gets the help and support they deserve. Join in with this year’s #AlcoholAwarenessWeek campaign and help drive the conversation about alcohol and cost. Anyone can sign up for free resources to run Alcohol Awareness Week in their community.


[1] The survey was carried out online by Opinium between 6 and 9 June 2023. Total sample size was 2,000 UK adults, of whom 1,474 said they were drinkers. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

The figure of £62,899 for the average spend of UK drinkers in their lifetime was calculated from the average amount spent on alcohol per week of £19.20, providing an average spend per year of £998.40, and an average spend per lifetime of £62,899 (63 years from 18 to 81 using the latest ONS life expectancy data).

[2] Increasing risk drinking is defined as drinking more than 14 but less 35 units a week for women, or more than 14 but less than 50 units a week for men.

[3] High risk drinking is defined as women drinking more than 35 units a week, and men drinking more than 50 units a week.

Important note on alcohol withdrawal

People who are clinically alcohol dependent can die if they suddenly, completely stop drinking. If you experience fits, shaking hands, sweating, seeing things that are not real, depression, anxiety, or difficulty sleeping after a period of drinking and while sobering up, then you may be clinically alcohol dependent and should NOT suddenly, completely stop drinking. But you can still take control of your drinking. Talk to a GP or your local community alcohol service who will be able to get help for you to reduce your drinking safely. Find out more here.