The 2011 General Lifestyle Survey has been released, including Chapter 2: drinking (pdf). The GLS 2011 explores trends in reported alcohol consumption since 2005 and confirms a fall in frequency of drinking above the guidelines amongst men and women. However health groups are keen to emphasise a significant longer trend rise in alcohol misuse and harms since the 1950s.
- The proportion of men drinking on five or more days a week fell from 23% in 1998 to 16% in 2011, and for women from 13% to 9%.
- The proportion reporting drinking alcohol in the last seven days fell from 72% in 2005 to 66% in 2011 for men, and from 57% to 54% for women.
- The proportion of men exceeding four units (daily guideline) on their heaviest drinking day was 41% in 2005 and 34% in 2011. The proportion of women exceeding three units was 34% in 2005 and 28% in 2011.
It is unclear to what extent various factors account for falls in reported consumption. Lower disposable income since the recession; national and local action to reduce alcohol misuse; or a general 'peaking' of consumption in 2004 may all play significant roles.
Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs, suggested "It may be linked to income – as we have less disposable income, we drink less," she said. Others have previously warned that consumption and harms may begin to rise again as or when the economy picks up, as heavier drinker's income are disproportionately squeezed in harder times.
Extensive media coverage was recently given to the issue of 'under-reporting' following a UCL study. However media reports generated some particularly sensationalised interpretations, as explored in this behind the headlines report. More to come on this.
Earlier this year findings from the the Health Survey for England (HSE) 2011 were released, comprehensively exploring consumption patterns. See the HSE chapter 6: drinking patterns and chapter 7: drink diary. Also earlier this year the ONS released the latest Statistical bulletin for alcohol-related deaths in the UK (2011).
See here for the NHS Statistics on Alcohol 2012 report.