Press release: UK ready to talk about alcohol harm as our attitude to drinking sobers up

June 2024 | 10 minutes

Ahead of the General Election, the charity Alcohol Change UK is calling for the new government to step up in addressing the unprecedented harms caused by alcohol.

A new survey1 published by Alcohol Change UK for Alcohol Awareness Week (1-7 July) shows fewer than one in ten UK adults (7%) see alcohol’s role in society in a mainly positive light.2

This is especially striking among younger people with only 3% of 18-24 year olds and 5% of 25-49 years olds believing alcohol plays a mainly positive role in society, compared to 9% of those aged 65+.

  • Only 7% of UK adults believe alcohol plays a mainly positive role in society
  • Stigma around alcohol problems still exists but greater numbers of us ready to talk
  • Majority support not allowing alcohol marketing in places where it can be seen by significant numbers of children

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Press release for Alcohol Awareness Week 2024

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The survey found that even those of us drinking above the recommended maximum of 14 units a week3 regard alcohol’s place in society as more negative than positive on balance, with more than double the proportion of respondents (28%) saying that alcohol has a mainly negative rather than mainly positive (13%) role.

Encouragingly, the survey findings also seem to indicate that many of us are willing to talk about our alcohol use with others.

When asked how comfortable or uncomfortable respondents would be in having a conversation about their own drinking, the vast majority reported feeling comfortable talking to: a partner (90%), friends (87%), family (80%), GP (81%), colleagues (70%), with just over half (56%) of respondents feeling comfortable with sharing this with faith leaders. (These figures exclude those who chose ‘Not applicable’.)4

This year’s Alcohol Awareness Week – run by Alcohol Change UK - is focused on us understanding more about the harm caused by alcohol and the dominant role that alcohol currently plays in our society.

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

“There is a growing realisation that alcohol plays too much of a centre-stage role in our society and that this needs to change. Alcohol is currently all around us, everywhere we go, and alcohol companies cleverly position their products to boost sales and encourage us into buying more.

“But attitudes are changing. We already know from Alcohol Change UK’s previous survey5 that one in four adults want to reduce their drinking in 2024. This latest research suggests that large numbers of us also want our Government to take action to address the rising harms caused by alcohol in the UK.

“From headaches and sleepless nights to financial hardship and relationship problems, along with many other long-term health conditions, alcohol affects millions of us every day - and these effects ripple out to our families, friends, communities and broader society. That’s why this Alcohol Awareness Week, we are encouraging all of us to learn more about alcohol and alcohol harm, to separate fact from fiction, and to support Alcohol Change UK in calling for our Government to implement the changes that we know will help to make things better for us all.”

When asked about the extent to which respondents would support or oppose targeted policies to reduce alcohol harm in the UK, a clear majority supported action on alcohol to give it less of a prominent role and to help us make more informed choices about our drinking:

  • Over three quarters (77%) of respondents supported not allowing alcohol marketing in places where it can be seen by significant numbers of children. For those drinking above the recommended maximum of 14 units a week, far more supported this action than opposed it (69% vs 20%).
  • Nearly three quarters (73%) of respondents supported having compulsory labels with health messages on alcoholic drinks. Again, among those drinking above 14 units more supported this action than opposed it (60% vs 28%).
  • The majority of respondents (55%) supported not allowing alcohol marketing online.

Alcohol Change UK will be launching a new film to mark the start of Alcohol Awareness Week which explores the centre-stage role that alcohol plays in our society and how we can reduce it to make life better for us all.

Join us for this year’s #AlcoholAwarenessWeek and help drive a conversation about the harm caused by alcohol.


Read Jay's and Issy's story

References and notes

1 The survey was carried out online by YouGov between 21 May and 22 May 2024. Total sample size was 2,146 UK adults, of whom 721 said they do not drink alcohol. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

2 When asked whether alcohol plays a mainly positive or negative role in society, 7% of respondents said mainly positive, 48% mainly negative, 40% equally positive and negative, and 5% selected don't know.

3 Department of Health. UK Chief Medical Officers’ Low Risk Drinking Guidelines. 2016.

4 These figures exclude those who chose ‘not applicable’ (for example to take account of those who don’t have a partner, work or faith).

5 Alcohol Change UK (2023). Press release on survey of 2,000 UK adults carried out by Opinium between 21 November and 24 November 2023.

About Alcohol Awareness Week 

Alcohol Awareness Week is a chance for the UK to get thinking about drinking. It is a week of awareness raising, campaigning for change, and more. This year the week takes place from 1-7 July 2024 on the theme of ‘Understanding alcohol harm’. Find out more.

Important advice 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 on the Alcohol Change UK website.

Read more