The amount of alcohol a person consumes can be affected by a number of factors, such as their age, gender, location, income, and lifestyle.
We have researched how drinking patterns differ between male and females and different age groups. For example, men are more likely than women to drink for five days or more in a week. We have researched binge drinking trends based on age and gender, the percentage of adults who are teetotal, underage drinking, and government guidelines.
Frequency and quantity of units
A Health Survey for England presents information on alcohol consumption in adults (aged 16 and over) in 2012, looking at the frequency and quantity consumed over different time periods. The survey shows:
- 86% of men and 80% of women had drunk in the past 12 months
- This varied in the different age groups, both the youngest and oldest age group were less likely to have drunk alcohol in the past 12 months.
- 67% of men and 53% of women had drunk alcohol in the past 7 days
- 18% of men and 10% of women drink on five or more days a week
- Men aged 55 – 64 were most likely to have a drink in the past week (74%)
- Women aged 45-64 were most likely to have a drink in the past week (60%)
- The percentage of adults who drank on five or more days of the week increased with age, from 6% of men and 2% of women aged 16-24 drinking in the past week to 30% of men and 17% of women aged 65-74.
- 30% of men did not exceed more than 4 units on any day that they drank, 17% drank 4-8 units, and 21% drank more than 8 units on at least one day
- 25% of women who drank on any day that week consumed up to 3 units, 16% drank between 3 and 6 units, and 13% drank more than 6 units on at least one day
A man is considered to binge drink if they consume more than 8 units of alcohol, and woman if they consume more than 6 units of alcohol. The percentage of adults who binge drink has decreased from 18% in 2005 to 15% in 2013. A survey in 2013 provides a breakdown of binge drinking statistics, based on age, gender and region.
Percentage of adults who binge drink by gender:
- 12% of adult women binge drink
- 19% of adult men binge drink
Percentage of adults who binge drink by age:
- 18% of 16-24 year olds
- 19% of 25-44 years olds
- 16% of 45-64 years
- 5% of 65 years and older
Binge drinking differs by region in the UK, the highest percentage of binge drinkers is in north east England, and Scotland, with 36% of adults in both regions classed as binge drinkers. The regions with the lowest percentage of adults who binge drink are the west midlands, east of England, and south east England, with 22% of adults in each region classed as a binge drinker.
The percentage of adults who are teetotal has increased slightly up from 19% in 2005 to 21% in 2013. A number of factors can affect the likelihood of a person being teetotal, for example, men and women are more likely to be teetotal if they share their household with dependent children. The percentage of adults who are teetotal also varies amongst different UK regions, nearly one-third of adults in London have said that they do not drink alcohol at all, which is considerably higher than other regions in the UK. The lowest percentage is south west England with only 15% of adults being teetotal.
Percentage of adults who are teetotal by gender:
- 25% of women
- 18% of men
Percentage of adults who are teetotal by age:
- 27% of 16-24 year olds
- 20% of 25-44 year olds
- 17% of 45-64 year olds
- 27% of 65 years and older
In England 2012, a survey was designed to monitor drinking among secondary school pupils aged between 11 and 15, showing the percentage of pupils who had ever drunk alcohol, the type of alcohol, where the pupils drink and where they obtain their alcohol.
The survey shows that 43% of pupils aged between 11 and 15 years had drunk alcohol at least once, and both boys and girls are equally likely to have done so. The percentage of pupils who have consumed alcohol increased with age, from 12% of 11-year-olds to 74% of 15-year-olds. 1% of 11-year-old pupils had drunk alcohol in the past week, and 25% of 15-year-old pupils had.
The average amount of alcohol consumed in a week was 12.5 units, usually consuming more than one type of drink. Boys were more likely than girls to consume beers, lager or cider, and girls were more likely than boys to drink spirits, alcopops or wine. However, the majority of consumption for both boys and girls was in the form of beer, lager or cider.
Younger children were most likely to have consumed alcohol with their family, and older children were most likely to drink with friends. 19% of children were given alcohol by their parents, 19% by friends, 13% by someone else buying it, and 13% taking it from their home.
There has been a reduction in children drinking outside since 2006, with 54% drinking in their own home, 48% drinking in someone else’s home, 47% drinking at a party, and only 18% drinking outside.
In January 2016, the government revised their guidelines and lowered the alcohol limit of men to be the same as women, down from 21 units to 14. The government’s unit guidelines state that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, and both men and women are now advised to not drink more than 14 units per week on a regular basis. If a person is drinking 14 units of alcohol per week it is recommended that they spread this evenly throughout the week.
To lower the risk of short-term health effects, the government advise limiting of amount of alcohol in one session, and drinking more slowly by alternating drinks with food and/or water. Having one or two heavy drinking sessions can increase the risk of death from long-term illness, accidents and injuries.
How many units are in your drink?
14 units per week is equal to:
- 6 medium glasses of wine (13% vol.)
- 6 pints of lager or ale (4% vol.)
- 5 pints of cider (4.5% vol.)
- 14 spirit shots 25ml (40% vol.)
DNA Legal perform a range of DNA tests; hair, fingernail and blood, to establish alcohol abuse or abstinence from alcohol. Please find out more information about our alcohol testing service and discover how we can help you.