In the UK, the General Household Survey (GHS) and the General Lifestyle Survey (GLF) have, between them, been measuring drinking behaviour for over 30 years. A chapter released by the Office of National Statistics presents information on recent trends over time in drinking behaviour and detailed data for the 2011 survey year.
On the 2011 GLF, respondents were asked two sets of questions about their drinking behaviour resulting in the following two measures of alcohol consumption:
maximum amount drunk on any one day in the previous seven days;
average weekly alcohol consumption
Frequency of drinking during the last week.
Overall, 59% of adults reported that they had consumed alcohol in the seven days prior to interview. 66% of men and 54 % of women had consumed a drink on at least one day during the previous week. Men also drank on more days of the week than women: 16% of men and 9% of women had drunk on at least five of the preceding seven days. Also men were much more likely than women to have drunk alcohol every day during the previous week (9% compared with 5%).
The proportions of adults drinking during the last week also varied between age groups. Those in the youngest and oldest age groups (16 to 24 and 65 and over) were less likely than those in the other age groups to report drinking alcohol during the previous week. The proportion who had consumed alcohol in the previous week was lowest among women aged 65 and over (42%), compared with 63% of men in that age group and 60% of women aged 45 to 64.
The age group with the highest proportion of people not drinking at all in the last week was the 16 to 24 group (50%). The proportion of adults who drank every day increased with each age group; Just 1% of the 16 to 24 age group had drunk every day during the previous week. This increased to 4% in the 25 to 44 group and then to 9% in the 45 to 64 age group and 13% in the 65 and over age group.
The proportion of adults who exceeded 4/3 units of alcohol on at least one day during the previous week was higher for men (34%) than it was for women (28%). Similarly, the proportion drinking heavily was also greater for men (18%) than for women (12%) as was the proportion drinking very heavily (9% of men and 6% of women).
Among both men and women, those aged 65 and over were significantly less likely than respondents in other age groups to have exceeded 4/3 units of alcohol on at least one day.
For men, 20% of those over 65 exceeded four units on at least one day during the previous week compared to the younger three age groups (16 to 24 (32%), 25 to 44 (39%) and 45 to 64 (38%)). Among women, 12% of those aged 65 and over exceeded three units on at least one day, significantly less that the younger three age groups (16 to 24 (31%), 25 to 44 (34%) and 45 to 64 respectively (33%)).
Similar patterns were evident for drinking more than twice the guidelines (exceeding 8/6 units) which included 6% of men aged 65 and over, 19% of men aged 45 to 64, 24% of men aged 25 to 44 and 22% of men aged 16 to 24. Among women the estimates for the corresponding age groups were 2%, 12%, 16% and 18%.
Heavy drinking (exceeding 12/9 units) was most prevalent in the 16 to 24 and 25 to 44 age groups. In the 16 to 24 age group, 13% of men and 12% of women drank more than 12/9 units, and 13% of men and 9% of women did so in the 25 to 44 group. In the 45 to 64 and 65 and over groups the estimates were 9% of men and 6% of women and 2% of men and 1% of women respectively. Overall, around half the people who drank heavily on at least one day in the week before interview (exceeding twice the daily drinking benchmarks) drank very heavily on that day (exceeding 3 times the benchmarks).