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British consumers are drinking less and more responsibly says latest ONS figures

Published:  17 December, 2013

Increasing numbers of people in the UK are drinking less and more responsibly, according to a survey of the latest drinking trends released by the Office for National Statistics.

Data released by the ONS this week reveal that in 2012 the number of frequent drinkers was down and that the number of people exceeding their recommended unit guidelines is also falling.     

Key highlights of the research include:

 * there has been a fall from 22% to 14% between 2005 and 2012 in the proportion of men who would classify themselves as frequent drinkers. The rate as fallen from 13% to 9% in women.

*  between 2005 and 2012 the proportion of men who drank alcohol in the week before being interviewed fell from 72% to 64%, and the proportion of women fell from 57% to 52%

* the ONS estimates that in 2012 58% of adults in Great Britain drank alcohol in the week before being interviewed. A fall of 2% for both men and women compared with 2011.

* the proportion of men aged 25-44 who drank in the last week fell from 67% to 63% between 2011 and 2012. The figures for women were a fall from 56% to 50%.

* there was a 2% fall in the number of frequent drinkers amongst men from 16% to 14%.

The figures have been welcomed by the leading drinks trade bodies. Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association said:  "While there is still work to be done, these figures show that responsible drinking messages are being heard and that more and more people are drinking sensibly, within the guidelines.

"Despite claims to the contrary, alcohol consumption in the UK has been falling since 2004, well before the start of the economic recession. These figures point to a much wider change in attitudes towards alcohol and responsible consumption and are to be welcomed."

Elaine Hindal, chief executive of alcohol education charity, Drinkaware, said: "There's an interesting dynamic between alcohol consumption and the negative health effects of alcohol. While it appears that people are drinking less overall, there is still a trend of heavy, episodic drinking among younger groups, and over half (52%) of those who say they drink on five or more days in the week are aged 45 and over.

"There is a paradox between the groups who drink heavily and those disproportionately at risk of harm from alcohol. Although those who are less well off report drinking less, we know that they are at more risk of alcohol related harm. This may be because they are more likely to have poorer health overall.

"People who drink frequently - every day or on most days of the week are just as likely as those who don't drink as often to think they are in good health. However, the medical evidence is clear; regularly drinking above the lower-risk alcohol guidelines increases the chances of developing health problems such as liver disease and cancer. The Drinkaware website and factsheets can help people understand how much they are drinking and its impact on their health, providing tools to help them cut down."