Essential facts, stats and quotes relating to alcohol use

Published on: 14th August 2015 | Updated on: 28th March 2022

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.

Drinkaware, Alcohol Consumption UK (February 2019)

Breakdown of alcohol risk levels in adults

  • In England in 2017, 16% of men and 21% of women said that they had not drunk any alcohol in the last year.
  • In 2017 in England, 56% of men and 64% of women said that they had drunk in the last year and that their average weekly alcohol consumption was no more than 14 units.
  • In 2017 in England, 24% of men said that their average weekly alcohol consumption was more than 14 units but no more than 50 units. 11% of women said that their average weekly alcohol consumption was more than 14 units but no more than 35 units.
  • In 2017 in England, 4% of men said that their average weekly alcohol consumption was more than 50 units and 3% of women said that their average weekly alcohol consumption was more than 35 units.

 Drinking habits of those who drank in the last week

  • In 2017, 57% of adults (people aged 16 and over) in Great Britain said they drank alcohol at least once in the week before being interviewed.
  • Between 2005 and 2017 the proportion of men who drank alcohol in the week before being interviewed fell from 72% to 62%, and the proportion of women fell from 57% to 52%.
  • In 2017, among those in Great Britain who had drunk alcohol, 27% were classed as binge drinkers based on their heaviest drinking day in the week before being interviewed (28.7% of men and 25.6% of women). For men, this was defined as eight units or more on their heaviest drinking day and six units or more for women.
  • In 2017, among men in Great Britain who had drunk alcohol in the last week, 51% had consumed between 4-8 units on their heaviest drinking day and further 29% drank more than eight units on their heaviest drinking day in the last week.
  • Of women in Great Britain who consumed alcohol in last week in 2017, 52% consumed between 3–6 units on their heaviest drinking day and 26% drank more than six units on their heaviest drinking day.
  • Between 2005 and 2017 in Great Britain, there was a fall in the proportion of men who were frequent drinkers (those who drank alcohol on at least five days in the week before being interviewed) from 22% to 12%, and in the proportion of women who did so from 13% to 8%.
  • Drinkers aged 65+ years drink more frequently than any other group but young people drink more units on a single occasion. In 2017, people aged 65 and over in Great Britain were more likely than any other age group to have drunk alcohol on 5 or more days in the previous week (21% of men and 13% of women) compared to 1% of men and 2% women aged 16 to 24.
  • In 2017, 48% of people aged 16-24 had consumed alcohol in the past week compared with 55% of those aged 65 and over. Of those young people aged 16 to 24 in Great Britain who drank in the last week, 33% of men and 27% of women drank more than 12 and 9 units respectively on their heaviest drinking day – meaning that, in that age group, 30% of all drinkers drank at this level—14% when non-drinkers are included. Of those aged 65 and over who drank in the last week, 6% of men and 3% of women drank more than 12 and 9 units respectively on their heaviest drinking day – meaning that, in this age group, 2% of everyone and 4% of all drinkers drank at this level.
  • The prevalence of ‘increased risk’ drinking in England in 2017 was 28% of men and 14% of women. This included 4% of men and 3% of women whose drinking could be categorised as ‘higher risk’ (defined as 35 units and over for women and 50 units and over for men). For men and women, the age group with the highest prevalence of drinkers above the low-risk drinking guidance was 55 to 64 year olds; 28% of this age group drink more than 14 units a week.
  • In 2016, the prevalence of hazardous drinking (defined as an Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test [AUDIT] score between eight and 15) among men in England was 24%, with 3% categorised as harmful or mildly dependent (a score of 16-19), and 2% who were possibly dependent drinkers (a score of 20+). Among women, the prevalence of hazardous drinking was 13%, with 1% categorised as harmful and 1% as possibly dependent.


Office of National Statistics: Alcohol-specific deaths in the UK: registered in 2017 (December 2018)

  • In 2017, there were 7,697 alcohol-specific deaths in the UK, an age-standardised rate of 12.2 deaths per 100,000 population.
  • For the UK, alcohol-specific death rates have increased in recent years to similar rates observed in 2008 where they were at the highest recorded.
  • Since the beginning of the time series in 2001, rates of alcohol-specific deaths among males have been more than double those observed among females (16.8 and 8.0 deaths per 100,000 in 2017 respectively).
  • In 2017, alcohol-specific death rates were highest among 55- to 59-year-old females and 60- to 64-year-old males.
  • Scotland remains the constituent country with the highest rate of alcohol-specific deaths in 2017; yet Scotland was the only country to experience a statistically significant decrease in rates from 2001.

NHS Digital, Statistics on alcohol, England 2018 (May 2018)

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Hospital admissions:

  • In 2016/17, there were 337,000 estimated admissions where the main reason for admission to hospital was attributable to alcohol. This is 1% lower than 2015/16 and 17% higher than 2006/07.
  • This represents 2.1% of all hospital admissions which has changed little in the last 10 years.
  • In total 62% of the patients were male.


  • In England in 2016, there were 5,507 alcohol-specific deaths. This is 4% higher than 2015 and 11% higher than 2006.
  • In total 67% of the deaths were for men.
  • Alcohol liver disease accounted for 82% of total alcohol-specific deaths. A further 8% were from mental and behavioural disorders due to the use of alcohol.

Prescriptions relating to alcohol:

  • 173,000 prescription items were dispensed in England in 2017, which is 8% lower than 2016 but 41% higher than 2007. This is the second successive year on year decrease.
  • The total Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) for items prescribed for alcohol dependence in 2017 was £4.42 million.

Drinking prevalence:

  • In 2017, 25.6 million people in England 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, Alcohol: applying All Our Health (February 2018)

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  • Some 27% of men and 13% of women in England drink alcohol in a way that presents increasing risk to their health and wellbeing, an estimated 10.4 million people.
  • Alcohol has been identified as a causal factor in more than 200 medical conditions.
  • It is estimated that 1.4% of the adult population in England (595,000) is dependent on alcohol and potentially in need of specialist assessment and treatment.
  • Alcohol’s cost to society: £11 billion alcohol-related crime, £7 billion lost productivity through unemployment and sickness, and £3.5 billion cost to NHS.

NHS Digital, Health Survey for England 2016 (December 2017)

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  • The proportion of both men and women drinking at increased or higher risk of harm decreased between 2011 and 2016 (from 34% to 31% of men, and from 18% to 16% of women).
  • The proportion of children aged 8 to 15 who reported ever having had a proper alcoholic drink (not just a sip) fell from 45% in 2003 to 15% in 2016.

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.

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)

Read the full summary

  • 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.

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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