Nearly nine in 10 unaware of falling alcohol consumption

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Almost nine out of 10 adults in Britain are unaware that British people are drinking less alcohol than they were a decade ago and that binge drinking is in decline, according to a new survey.

The poll by YouGov found that 89% of adults did not know about the changes in the UK’s drinking habits, with just 11% knowing that Britons drink less than they did 10 years ago.

Rates of binge drinking – drinking double the recommended guidelines in one day or session – have dropped significantly, with the steepest fall among people aged 16 to 24. The proportion of men aged 16 to 24 binge drinking declined 31% between 2005 and 2012 while for women of the same age the drop was 37%.

The number of people drinking on five or more days per week has fallen since 2005, from 22% to 14% for men, and from 13% to 9% for women.

Alcohol consumption per head has dropped by 18.1% since 2004, according to the latest figures published by the British Beer & Pub Association. Comparable data across 24 European countries in 2011, using the latest available figures, ranks the UK below the European average and below countries including France, Germany and Spain.

When respondents were informed and asked about reasons for this change, the British public cited that we were becoming more health conscious and drunk less as part of a healthier lifestyle (46%) followed by changing social norms making binge drinking socially unacceptable (33%).

Other factors included changing population demographics among ethnic groups (24%), increased information and education about alcohol consumption (16%) better law enforcement (16%) and wider availability of no/low alcohol drinks (16%).

binge drinking graphs 2

Henry Ashworth, chief executive of drinks industry watchdog The Portman Group, said: “There’s is no doubt about it, our relationship with alcohol is changing for the better and we should acknowledge the seismic shift that’s happened over the past decade.

“People are more interested in living healthier lifestyles, we understand the effects of excessive consumption thanks to better information and we are not prepared to tolerate anti-social behaviour in the same way we did.

“The fact is that binge drinking has plummeted and the vast majority of us drink within sensible limits. While we still don’t know exactly why this is happening, it is vitally important that the alcohol debate recognises these significant societal changes and continues to build on the positive social norms.”

To support a culture of responsible drinking, drinks producers and retailers have announced a new set of voluntary commitments to tackle alcohol misuse and promote responsible drinking, ranging from supporting local partnership schemes to life-skills training in schools.

binge drinking graphs 1

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