Alcohol Consumption – Is It On The Rise?

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Alcohol is a substance that can affect a person’s life in many ways. Many people drink alcohol to wind down after a long week, but others abuse alcohol for the sole purpose of getting intoxicated.

Alcoholic beverages are thought to have existed since 5000 BC or even earlier than that – and have been consumed by people since then.

It is a part of many cultures – including our own. With drinking games, nights at the pub, and clubbing, whether we like it or not, alcohol is a part of our culture.

There’s no denying that alcohol abuse is a problem in the UK – but is the problem getting worse? That’s what we’re going to explore on this page. Read on to learn more about alcohol abuse and alcohol statistics in the UK.

What Counts As Excessive Alcohol Consumption?

Before we delve into alcohol misuse and alcohol use statistics, let’s determine what counts as alcohol abuse or excessive alcohol consumption.

Alcohol abuse is essentially a dangerous drinking pattern – a pattern that can result in a range of negative consequences.

A form of alcohol abuse is binge drinking. Binge drinking is the act of drinking an excessive amount of alcohol to the point that it causes physical harm. Alcohol should be enjoyed in moderation.

You may be wondering how much alcohol counts as ‘moderation’ – well, the NHS guidelines recommend that you drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week.

This should be spread across the span of three or more days. Sticking within these recommendations, you can drink around six medium glasses of wine, or six pints of 4% beer per week.

No level of drinking is considered completely safe, but drinking in moderation can lower the risk of developing alcohol-related health problems as well as alcohol use disorder/ alcohol addiction.

Over time, excessive drinking can lead to alcohol addiction. Alcohol addiction can impact all areas of your life, such as:

Excessive drinking and alcohol addiction can also increase the risk of alcohol-related legal issues such as driving under the influence of alcohol or violent assault.

Binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning, also known as an alcohol overdose. Alcohol poisoning can be fatal – if you think you or somebody you’re with is displaying signs of alcohol poisoning, seek medical attention immediately.

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Alcoholism Statistics UK

Now you have an understanding of alcohol abuse, it’s time to learn some key statistics – statistics that may suggest that alcohol consumption in the UK is on the rise.

Alcohol is a leading cause of hospital admissions in the UK. In the years 2020 to 2021, there were over 914,000 alcohol-related hospital admissions in England, falling under the broad definition. There were over 318,000 alcohol-specific hospital admissions in these years.

Alcohol also has an impact on the economy in England, costing roughly £21 billion in 2012. However, this figure has likely risen in the last decade.

Young adults and adults drinking less alcohol, and drinking in moderation will likely see this figure drop drastically.

How Many Adults Drink Alcohol?

Alcohol is consumed by countless adults around the world – it’s estimated that roughly two billion people around the globe drink alcohol.

Some people will drink alcohol in moderation – but others will abuse alcohol, or develop an addiction to alcohol. Around the world, over 76 million people are affected by alcohol use disorder(AUD).

Around 4% of adults in England are dependent on alcohol – including 6% of men and 2% of women. Comparing male and female drinkers, statistics show that men drink more than women in the UK. 30% of men drink over 14 units of alcohol per week, as opposed to 15% of women.

In terms of age-related drinking behaviours, adults within the age bracket of 55 to 64 appear to be more likely to drink over 14 units of alcohol per week – with 31% of them doing so.

Older teenagers and young adults between the ages of 16 to 24 are less likely to abuse alcohol – 15% of people within this age range drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week.

Alcohol Specific Deaths

Alcohol is responsible for a range of health problems and can be a causal factor in serious illnesses such as alcoholic liver disease, several types of cancer, alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) and many more.

For example, in the long-term, alcohol abuse and excessive alcohol consumption can result in alcohol-related liver disease.

The alcohol-related liver disease accounts for 60% of all cases of liver disease. Liver disease can be fatal, with roughly 7700 people dying from alcohol-related liver disease annually.

Alcohol can also affect many of your body’s organs – check out this page to learn more about how alcohol affects your organs and other alcohol-related conditions

Although the alcohol-specific death rate for 2022 hasn’t been calculated yet, in 2022, the alcohol-specific death rate for alcohol poisoning was 552 – 552 people died in the UK due to acute alcohol poisoning.

This figure has seen a rise from the 2018 figure. In 2018, 530 people died in the UK from alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning is generally a result of binge drinking – drinking to the extent that it damages your physical health. This means that 530 people drank alcohol to the extent that it causes irreparable physical damage.

In terms of general alcohol-attributable deaths registered in the UK, there were 8,974 deaths in 2020 from alcohol-specific causes. This equates to 14.0 per 100,000 people. Compared with the detailed statistics from 2019, this figure has risen by 18.6%.

This has been the highest year-on-year increase since the data series began back in 2001 – which suggests that alcohol is becoming more of a problem in the UK – and more adults drank alcohol that year.

Is Alcoholism Becoming More Of A Problem?

As the statistics previously mentioned suggest – it appears as though alcoholism is becoming more of a problem in England and the rest of the UK.

YouGov figures suggest that over 18% of adults in England were drinking at a higher risk in the three months nearing the end of October 2021. This is roughly equivalent to eight million people.

In February 2020, however, only 12.4% (roughly six million people) drank at dangerously high levels. This figure increased drastically from October 2019 – where only 11.9% (roughly 5 million people) were drinking at high risk.

Evidence suggests that the problem will get worse for years to come – and that alcohol-related hospital admissions and alcohol-specific deaths will increase over 20 years.

A report from the University of Sheffield found that there will be over 970,000 additional alcohol-related hospital admissions, and over 25,000 additional deaths. This will cost the UK’s economy around £5.2 billion.

Why Are More People Drinking Alcohol?

Read on to explore the reasons why more people are drinking alcohol, including stress, cheap alcohol, underage drinking, and home drinking.

Home Drinking

As the statistics previously mentioned show, there was a spike in drinking habits and alcohol-specific deaths in 2020. One of the reasons for this could be the Covid-19 pandemic.

People were spending more time at home – which means that instead of going to the pub to drink, people would drink alcohol at home.

When you drink at the pub, you have a firmer understanding of how much you’re drinking – for example, a single vodka coke equals one unit.

However, when you drink at home, you may pour the alcohol-free which makes it difficult to keep track of how many units you’re drinking. This can lead to you increasing your alcohol consumption.

Likewise, it can be cheaper to drink at home than in the pub – especially with rising prices. This means that people are more likely to drink at home than at a pub or bar.


There’s no denying that modern living is stressful – and with the cost of living rising, people are working more hours to make ends meet.

Many people turn to alcohol to relieve stress – for example, you may open a bottle of wine to unwind after a tough day of work, or binge drink on the weekend after five days of working 9-5.

However, drinking to relieve stress can quickly become a habit – many alcoholics begin drinking by self-medicating to relieve unpleasant feelings and emotions.

This can turn into addiction – which can affect all areas of a person’s life. If you think you may be addicted to alcohol, contact our friendly team at Help4Addiction to discuss your treatment options.

Instead of turning to alcohol to relieve stress or negative feelings, research other stress-relief methods. However, sometimes meditation or taking a relaxing bath isn’t enough, and you may wish to seek mental health treatment.

The Price of Alcohol

Another reason that levels of alcohol consumption appear to be rising in the UK could be due to alcohol becoming more available, and cheaper options being found on the shelves.

Many supermarkets in the UK offer membership deals and discounts – so if you’re a member or have a store card, you can make the most of slashed prices, two-for-one deals, or other bulk offers. This means you can buy three six-packs of beer for the price of two, or 20% off a bottle of wine.

This can result in you buying more alcohol – and ultimately, drinking more alcohol. With more and more discount stores offering reasonable prices on their products (including alcohol) and providing affordable options, it’s more tempting than ever to make the most of cheap alcohol.

In fact, evidence suggests that a 10% rise in the cost of alcohol could lead to a 5% decrease in alcohol consumption.

More Underage Drinking

Underage drinking is considered a huge problem in the UK – and unfortunately, there’s no evidence that this problem is improving. Thousands of children are excluded from school every year for drug and alcohol-related problems – and thousands of children admit to drinking alcohol underage.

In fact, back in 2018, 44% of children within the age group of 11-15 in England had drunk alcohol. This equates to roughly two-fifths of all children.

The figure is similar to children in Scotland. In Scotland, 28% of 13-year-old children and 66% of 15-year-olds claimed that they drink alcohol or had tried alcohol.

Young adults and older children may not be aware that their drinking habits are a problem. In fact, more than half of children within the age range of 11-15 thought it was okay to drink alcohol at their age. Likewise, they thought that drinking alcohol was a better option than smoking cannabis or tobacco.

Underage drinking can lead to problematic alcohol use in later life. The younger a person is introduced to alcohol or dangerous drinking habits, the more likely they are to experience alcohol abuse problems later in life.

The laws regarding drinking on public premises are clear – it’s illegal to sell alcohol to people under the age of 18. However, young adults aged between 16-17 can legally drink beer, wine, or cider with their meal if they are accompanied by an adult. However, they can’t purchase it.

You have to be aged 18 or over to purchase alcohol in the UK. If you look under the age of 25, you will need to provide a photographic ID such as a passport, driving licence, or provisional licence.

However, the rules become slightly blurred when it comes to drinking alcohol at home. Legally, you can give alcohol to a child over the age of five at home or in another private dwelling. That being said, the NHS recommends avoiding providing alcohol to children under the average age of 15, and always supervising underage drinkers.

Different households will have different rules regarding alcohol in their home – however, many parents will only allow their older children to have one drink per week.

Treatment For Alcohol Addiction

If you think you or somebody you know is struggling with addiction, there is help out there for you. Our friendly team at Help4Addiction will help to find the right alcohol treatment that can help you get sober once and for all.

Likewise, we can also help to source the right drug rehab for you – whether you are addicted to illicit substances such as cocaine, heroin, and ketamine – or prescription medication such as fentanyl, oxycodone, or valium. Read on to learn more about alcohol-only treatment for addiction.

Alcohol treatment for addiction can vary depending on your personal circumstances. However, most treatment for alcoholism has three stages – alcohol detox, addiction therapy, and aftercare.

Detoxification deals with the physical aspect of addiction – which means during alcohol detox, you’ll have no access to alcohol in order to free your body of the substance.

During this stage, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. In severe cases, it may be best to undergo medical detox, where you may be given detox medication. However, for milder forms of AUD, you may prefer to detox at home using our home detox kit.

Upon detoxing from alcohol, you may move on to the next stage of alcohol treatment – addiction therapy. Therapy isn’t just for those with mental health disorders – it can be for anybody who wants to improve themselves, and is extremely beneficial in addiction treatment.

Some forms of therapy in alcohol rehab include CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), group therapy, interpersonal therapy, family therapy, and of course, counselling. Some clinics also offer holistic therapies, which can involve meditation, art therapy, and more.

During therapy, you may learn valuable and effective coping techniques, as well as learn about yourself and your addiction. Ultimately, therapy in rehab aims at dealing with the psychological and behavioural aspects of addiction.

When you leave rehab, the support you receive doesn’t have to end. This is the purpose of aftercare or secondary treatment – to provide you with support when you return back to your ‘normal’ life.

Some forms of aftercare may include further therapy or counselling, group therapy, or support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

Whether you’d prefer to undergo rehab as an inpatient at a residential rehab facility, or as an outpatient and travel to regular sessions from home, we can find the right treatment plan for you. Contact our team today to begin your recovery journey.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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