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Publication, Part of

Statistics on Alcohol, England 2020

Official statistics, National statistics

National Statistics

Part 4: Drinking behaviours among adults

This section presents a range of information on drinking behaviours among adults including drinking prevalence, consumption and trends among different groups of society and geographical areas.

The main data source is the Health Survey for England (HSE) which is published by NHS Digital and has been carried out since 1994. The survey is designed to measure health and health-related behaviours in adults and children in England.

Adult substance misuse statistics from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS) provides information on the number of people being treated for alcohol problems.

Health at a Glance, published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), provides international comparisons on alcohol consumption.

Data have been provided for England unless otherwise stated.

Alcohol Consumption

Proportion of adults (aged 16 and over) drinking at increased or higher risk of harm, by age and sex

The proportion of men and women usually drinking over 14 units in a week varied across age groups and was most common among men and women aged 55 to 64 (38% and 19% respectively). Proportions drinking at these levels then declined among both sexes from the age of 65. Across all age groups, men were more likely than women to drink at increasing and higher risk levels.


Estimated weekly alcohol consumption, by region and sex

The proportions of men and women who had not drunk alcohol varied across regions. Among both men and women, the highest proportions of non-drinkers were in London (28%) and the lowest proportions in the East of England (9%).


Proportion of adults drinking at increased or higher risk of harm, by Index of Multiple Deprivation and sex

The proportion of adults who were non-drinkers was highest in most deprived areas (29%) compared with 10% in the least deprived areas.

Adults in least deprived areas were more likely to drink over 14 units in a usual week (27%) than those in most deprived areas (18%). 36% of men in the least deprived areas drank at increasing and higher risk levels, compared with 27% of men in the most deprived areas. 17% of women in the least deprived areas drank more than 14 units compared with 10% of women in the most deprived areas.

The variation in weekly alcohol consumption by deprivation was accounted for by differences in the proportions of men and women drinking at increasing levels of risk (that is, over 14 units and up to 50 units for men and over 14 units and up to 35 units for women) rather than the smaller proportions in the higher risk category (over 50 units for men and over 35 units for women). The proportion of men and women drinking at higher levels of risk was similar by IMD quintile.

Index of Multiple Deprivation

The English Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) is a measure of area deprivation, based on 37 indicators, across seven domains of deprivation. IMD is a measure of the overall deprivation experienced by people living in a neighbourhood, although not everyone who lives in a deprived neighbourhood will be deprived themselves. To enable comparisons, areas are classified into quintiles (fifths).

Further information about the IMD


Number of days on which drank alcohol in the last week, by age and sex

65% of men and 50% of women had drunk alcohol in the last week. The proportion of men and women drinking in the last week increased with age and was highest among both men and women aged 65 to 74 (71% and 58% respectively). In the 75+ age group the prevalence of drinking in the last week decreased among both sexes.


Maximum amount drunk on any day in the last week, 2006-2018

The proportion of men who drank more than 8 units in a day dropped from 24% in 2006 to 19% in 2018, with a gradual decline since 2009.

The proportion of women drinking more than 6 units in a day decreased between 2006 and 2018 from 16% to 12%.



International comparisons of drinking prevalence

Lithuania reported the highest consumption (12.3 litres), followed by Austria, France, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Latvia, Hungary, Russia and Ireland, all with over 11 litres per person. Indonesia, Turkey, Israel, India, Costa Rica, Mexico and Colombia have comparatively low consumption levels (under 5 litres per person).



Adults in treatment for alcohol problems

In 2018/19, 76 thousand were treated for problematic drinking alone which was similar to the previous year.

29 thousand were treated for non-opiate and alcohol problems.

Last edited: 25 February 2020 2:29 pm