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Alcohol consumption and binge drinking still falling

The Statistics on Alcohol: England 2012 report has been broadly welcomed by the drinks industry as it shows a “positive shift in the nation’s drinking behaviour.”

There has been a long-term downward trend in the proportion of adults alcohol intake, as in 1998 75% of men and 59% of women drank in the week prior to report’s survey compared to 68% of men and 54% of women in 2010.

Furthermore, the average weekly alcohol consumption for all adults was 15.9 units for men and 7.6 units for women and  26% of men reported drinking more than 21 units in a typical week. For women, 17% reported drinking more than 14 units in a typical week.

In terms of secondary school pupils aged 11 to 15, 13% reported drinking alcohol during the week in 2010 compared with 18% of pupils in 2009 and 26% in 2001.

In response to the report Chris Sorek, chief executive of alcohol education charity Drinkaware, said, “The research reveals a positive shift in the nation’s drinking behaviour among the younger generation of under-25s, but highlights a worrying increase in “hidden” binge drinking among older Britons.

“It is encouraging to see a fall in average weekly alcohol consumption among young adults. Yet despite an overall decline in recent years, over one in five young men (22%) and one in five young women (17%) are still binge drinking. Our research shows young men say they drink because of social pressure and young women say they drink to boost their confidence.”

Country director of Diageo GB, Andrew Cowan, said of the figures, “These figures demonstrate a further step in the right direction. People in England are drinking less as weekly alcohol consumption and binge drinking continue to fall, while the nation’s alcohol unit awareness is at an all-time high.

“Perhaps most encouraging is what these figures reveal about young people and their attitude to drinking. The number of secondary school pupils aged 11-15 who drink has halved since 2001 and the number who think it is okay for someone their age to get drunk once a week has almost halved since 2003. There is no room for complacency when it comes to alcohol misuse, but these figures do show that efforts by the drinks industry and Government to tackle the issues of the minority who misuse alcohol are having a positive impact.”

Henry Ashworth, chief executive of the Portman Group added, “It is encouraging that the overall national context around drinking patterns and harms is showing improvement but these statistics yet again highlight that some local areas have disproportionately high alcohol-related harms. The evidence is becoming clearer that targeted action at a local level will be most effective in bringing about the culture change needed.”

While WSTA Interim Chief Executive Gavin Partington said, “Whilst the continued rise in alcohol-related deaths is concerning, the long-term downward trend in adults drinking over the recommended limits is positive.

“The decline in underage drinking and the fact that young people are themselves becoming less tolerant of drinking amongst their peers is particularly welcome. It suggests messages about the risks of underage and excessive drinking are getting through.”

Also reported was that the overall volume of alcoholic drinks purchased for consumption outside the home has decreased by 44% from 733 millilitres (ml) of alcohol per person per week in 2001/02 to 413 ml per person per week in 2010. Although purchases of cider and perry and wine showed the largest increase between 1992 and 2010 compared to other types of drink.

Consumption of cider and perry has increased by 69% from 47 ml per person per week to 79 ml and wine consumption has increased by 66% from 152 ml to 252 ml.

The report highlighted the marked differences in the drink preferences of men and women. Beers were the most popular drink among men of all ages and the amount of spirits as a proportion of men’s total consumption was highest among those aged 16 to 24 (19%) and 65 and over (18%).

Among women aged 16 to 24, spirits were the most popular type of drink, followed by wine. Among older women, wine was by far the most popular alcoholic drink in women aged 45 to 64; wine accounted for 70% of average weekly alcohol consumption. The amount of fortified wine as a proportion of women’s total consumption was highest (9%) among those aged 65 and over.

Newly-published information in the report is more sobering, however, as it shows there were an estimated 198,900 alcohol related hospital admissions in 2010-11 based on the primary diagnosis. This is an increase of just over two per cent on the previous year (194,800) and 40 per cent on 2002-03 (142,000).

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