Essential facts, stats and quotes relating to alcohol use

Essential facts, stats and quotes relating to alcohol use

This page contains facts, stats and quotes that LPC members may find useful when writing business cases or developing resources to support the commissioning of an alcohol intervention and brief advice (IBA) service. 

This page is ‘work in progress’ and will continue to be updated with new facts, stats and quotes.

Facts, stats and quotes on other topics can be accessed on the Essential facts, stats and quotes page.

Public Health England, Data intelligence summary: Alcohol consumption and harm among under 18 year olds (August 2016)

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  • Young people in the least deprived areas are more likely to have had an alcoholic drink (66%) and to be regular drinkers (8%) than those in the most deprived areas (44% and 4% respectively).
  • Young White people were much more likely to have had an alcoholic drink than those from a Black and Minority Ethnic group background (72% compared with 27%).
  • The proportion of children in the UK drinking alcohol remains well above the European average and the majority of 17 year olds do drink alcohol.
  • The UK continues to rank among the countries with the highest levels of consumption among those who do drink, and British children are more likely to binge drink or get drunk compared to children in most other European countries. 

NHS Digital, Statistics on alcohol, England 2016 (June 2016)

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Hospital admissions:

  • In 2014/15 there were 1.1 million estimated admissions where an alcohol-related disease, injury or condition was the primary reason for admission or a secondary diagnosis. This is 3% more than 2013/14.
  • There were 333,000 estimated admissions where an alcohol-related disease, injury or condition was the primary diagnosis or there was an alcohol-related external cause. This is similar to 2013/14 and 32% higher than 2004/05.
  • Men accounted for nearly two-thirds of the admissions.


  • In 2014, there were 6,831 deaths which were related to the consumption of alcohol. This is an increase of 4% on 2013 and an increase of 13% on 2004.

Prescriptions relating to alcohol:

  • 196,000 prescription items were dispensed in England in 2015, which is 1% higher than in 2014 and nearly double the level ten years ago.
  • The total Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) for items prescribed for alcohol dependence in 2015 was £3.93 million which is 15% higher than in 2014.

Drinking prevalence:

  • 9 million people in Great Britain report drinking alcohol in the previous week. This equates to 58% of the population.
  • In 2014, 38% of secondary school pupils had ever drunk alcohol, the lowest proportion since the survey began when it was 62%.

Public Health England, Health Matters: Harmful drinking and alcohol dependence (January 2016)

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  • Alcohol costs society:
    • £11 billion in alcohol-related crime;
    • £7 billion in lost productivity through unemployment and sickness; and
    • £3.5 billion cost to NHS.
  • 10.8 million adults in England are drinking at levels that pose some risk to their health.
  • 1.6 million adults in England may have some level of alcohol dependence, although not all of these need specialist treatment. A proportion of these will benefit from a brief intervention.
  • Alcohol has been identified as a casual factor in more than 60 medical conditions.
  • The new guideline on alcohol consumption produced by the Chief Medical Officer warns that drinking any level of alcohol increases the risk of a range of cancers including:
    • mouth;
    • bowel;
    • stomach;
    • liver; and
    • breast.
  • An estimated 44% of community mental health patients have reported problem drug use or harmful alcohol use in the previous year.
  • In 2013/14 there were 333,014 hospital admissions where the main reason was alcohol-related (a 1.3% increase from 2012/13).
  • Excessive alcohol consumption is a major cause of preventable premature death. It accounts for 1.4% of all deaths registered in England and Wales in 2012.
  • Liver disease is one of the leading causes of death in England and people are dying from it at younger ages. Alcohol accounts for over a third of all cases of liver disease. Most liver disease is preventable.
  • There were 17,432 deaths from liver disease between 2011 and 2013 (a 15% increase since 2002).
  • Children affected by parental alcohol misuse are more likely to have physical, psychological and behavioural problems.
  • Alcohol plays a part in 25-33% of known cases of child abuse.
  • In a study of young offending cases where the young person was also misusing alcohol, 78% had a history of parental alcohol abuse or domestic abuse within the family.
  • In England, alcohol dependence is more common in men (6%) than in women (2%). This gender difference is found to be the case all over the world and is one of only a few key gender differences in social behaviour.
  • The impact of harmful drinking and alcohol dependence is much greater for those in the lowest income bracket and those experiencing the highest levels of deprivation.
  • Councils with the highest rates are situated predominantly within the North West.
  • 150,640 people in England received specialist treatment for alcohol dependence in 2014/15 (60% for problematic drinking only and 40% for alcohol alongside other substances).
  • For every 100 alcohol-dependent people treated, at a cost of £40,000, a £60,000 saving is made as it prevents 18 A&E visits and 22 hospital admissions.

Department of Health, UK Chief Medical Officers' alcohol guidelines review: Summary of the proposed new guidelines (January 2016)

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  • The Chief Medical Officers’ guideline for both men and women is that:

    • you are safest not to drink regularly more than 14 units per week, to keep health risks from drinking alcohol to a low level;
    • if you do drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread this evenly over 3 days or more. If you have one or two heavy drinking sessions, you increase your risks of death from long term illnesses and from accidents and injuries;
    • the risk of developing a range of illnesses (including, for example, cancers of the mouth, throat and breast) increases with any amount you drink on a regular basis; and
    • if you wish to cut down the amount you’re drinking, a good way to help achieve this is to have several drink-free days each week.
  • This review found that the benefits of alcohol for heart health only apply for women aged 55 and over. The greatest benefit is seen when these women limit their intake to around 5 units a week, the equivalent of around 2 standard glasses of wine. The group concluded that there is no justification for drinking for health reasons.
  • An additional recommendation is not to ‘save up’ the 14 units for 1 or 2 days, but to spread them over 3 or more days. People who have 1 or 2 heavy drinking sessions each week increase the risk of death from long term illnesses, accidents and injuries. A good way to reduce alcohol intake is to have several alcohol free days a week.
  • The guidelines for pregnant women have also been updated to clarify that no level of alcohol is safe to drink in pregnancy. The previous advice for pregnant women to limit themselves to no more than 1 to 2 units of alcohol once or twice per week has been removed to provide greater clarity as a precaution. 

The Nuffield Trust, Alcohol-specific activity in hospitals in England (December 2015)

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  • From 2008/09 to 2013/14, A&E attendance rates in England likely to be due to alcohol poisoning doubled, from 72.7 per 100,000 population to 148.8 per 100,000 population (a 104.6% increase).
  • From 2005/06 to 2013/14, inpatient admissions specific to alcohol increased by 63.6%: there was a 143.3% increase in elective admissions (from 45.5 per 100,000 population to 110.8 per 100,000 population) and a 53.9% increase in emergency admissions (from 374.9 per 100,000 population to 577.1 per 100,000 population). In 2013/14, approximately 1 in 20 emergency admissions and 1 in 120 elective admissions were for alcohol-specific conditions (although they may not have been the primary cause for admission in all cases).
  • Three in four of those who attended A&E due to likely alcohol poisoning arrived by ambulance. One in three were subsequently admitted to hospital overnight, in comparison to one in five of those attending A&E for other reasons. This places potentially avoidable strain on ambulance trusts, A&E and hospital services.
  • The highest rates of alcohol-related emergency admissions were seen in men and in the older age groups. In 2013/14, the highest rates of emergency admission were found in 45–64-year-old men (1,126.0 per 100,000 population). This may reflect the chronicity of alcohol-related diagnoses and the contribution of alcohol to many long-term conditions that are more prevalent in older age groups.
  • A&E attendance rates that are likely to be due to alcohol poisoning and hospital emergency admissions specific to alcohol were three to four times higher in the poorest fifth of the population. This difference has been consistent over the past five years – a finding supported by other studies.
  • While alcohol is a cause of avoidable demand on the NHS, hospitals alone cannot tackle this issue. Action to reduce harmful alcohol use requires a collaborative effort, involving GPs, community pharmacists, the police, education and licensing authorities.
  • The effect is not only evident in hospital care, with 22 to 35% of GP visits estimated to be related to alcohol.
  • In 2013/14, over 50% of all A&E attendances likely to be due to alcohol poisoning were over Friday, Saturday and Sunday (51.1% or 33,653 out of 65,882). Across the week, A&E attendances likely to be due to alcohol poisoning increased throughout the evening and peaked between midnight and 2am before reducing to its lowest level at about 7am. The highest volume of attendances in the early hours of the morning was seen in younger age groups, particularly those aged 15–24 years.

NHS Digital, Health Survey for England 2014 (December 2015)

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  • In 2014, a minority of adults, (15% of men and 21% of women), did not drink alcohol.
  • The majority, 63% of men and 62% of women, drank at levels considered to be at lower risk of alcohol-related harm: that is 21 units or less per week for men and 14 units or less for women (These guidelines were reviewed in January 2016). 22% of men and 16% of women drank more than this. 

Public Health England, Annual report and accounts 2014/15 (July 2015)

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  • The average consumption of alcohol by adults in the UK is 10% higher than the EU average.
  • Overall alcohol harm costs society £21 billion a year with the costs to the NHS at £3.5 billion.
  • 9 million adults now drink at levels that increase the risk of harm. 
  • Alcohol is the leading risk factor for preventable deaths in 15 to 49 year olds. 

Drinkaware, Monitor 2014 Adults drinking behaviour and attitudes in the UK, an Ipsos MORI report (May 2015)

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  • The majority of UK adults drink alcohol whilst only a small minority claim to never drink. At present, 87% of UK adult drink at least once a year and 11% say they never do so.
  • The frequency of alcohol consumption by UK adults is reasonably high ith 60% drinking alcohol at least once a week.
  • Alcohol consumption is higher, and more frequent, among men and older age groups.

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