Alcohol-related harm and drinking behaviour

This indicator explores whether alcohol-related harm and drinking behaviour has changed over time.

Indicator

Last updated: 24/03/2021

Effective clinical care
Primary and community care Public health

Background

Excessive alcohol consumption can have harmful health consequences in the short term but also in the long term, through conditions such as liver disease, stroke and some cancers. Alcohol-related hospital activity and deaths are potentially avoidable burdens to the health service. Alcohol-related harm includes conditions that are a direct consequence of alcohol consumption, such as alcohol poisoning, as well as conditions that are partly related to alcohol, such as liver cancer.

The latest data presented here are for 2018 to 2019, before the onset of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Initial data from surveys carried out during the pandemic suggests that higher risk drinking increased during the national lockdown.


How have alcohol-related deaths changed over time? 24/03/2021

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The alcohol-related death rate in England has remained roughly constant over time, fluctuating between a high of 48 deaths per 100,000 population in 2008 and a low of 46 deaths per 100,000 population in 2014. The alcohol-related death rate in males is more than twice the rate in females. In 2018, there were 67 deaths per 100,000 males compared with 29 deaths per 100,000 females. Between 2008 and 2012, the rate of alcohol-related deaths in males decreased from 71 deaths per 100,000 males to 66 deaths per 100,000 males, but has since fluctuated. The rate of alcohol-related deaths in females decreased slightly between 2008 and 2018, from 31 deaths per 100,000 females to 29 deaths per 100,000 females.


How have alcohol-related admissions to hospital changed over time? 24/03/2021

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Alcohol misuse is estimated to cost the NHS £3.5 billion per year and society as a whole £21 billion annually. Monitoring alcohol-related hospital admissions supports the national ambition to reduce harm set out in the Government's Alcohol Strategy.

The rate of hospital admissions that were related to alcohol consumption has increased over time, from 1,639 per 100,000 population in 2008/09 to 2,367 per 100,000 population in 2018/19. Over the same time period, the rate of admissions for females increased by 46% (from 1,100 to 1,608 admissions per 100,000 females) and the rate of admissions for males increased by 42% (from 2,286 to 3,246 admissions per 100,000 males). This increase may be due to alcohol becoming increasingly affordable and accessible.


How has the proportion of people who drank heavily in the past week changed over time? 27/01/2021

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The Health Survey for England conducts annual face-to-face interviews where people are asked about the maximum amount of alcohol they drank on any day in the last week. Data prior to 2006 is not shown due to changes in the methodology used to convert drinks to units of alcohol.

Between 2006 and 2019, the proportion of adults who drank more than 8 units (men) or 6 units (women) on any day in the past week fell for all age groups between 16 and 54 years old. The largest decrease occurred in people aged 16-24, from 29% drinking heavily in 2006 to 15% in 2019.

Over the same time period, the proportion of adults aged 55-64 who drank heavily in the week prior to interview fluctuated around 16%. For those aged 65-74, heavy drinking increased from 6% in 2006 to 10% in 2018, and for those aged 75 and over it increased from 1.8% to 3.2%.

Overall, the 25-34 age group reported drinking the most heavily in 2019, with 22% exceeding 8/6 units on any day in the last week. By comparison, only 3.2% of people aged 75 and over reported heavy drinking.


How has the proportion of children who have had an alcoholic drink changed over time? 27/01/2021

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Young people who start drinking alcohol at an early age tend to drink more often than those who start drinking later, and are more likely to develop alcohol problems in adolescence and adulthood. The Government’s Alcohol Strategy sets out a national ambition to deliver a sustained reduction in the number of 11- to 15-year-olds drinking alcohol and the amounts consumed.

The Health Survey for England provides children aged 8 to 15 with a self-completion booklet which asks if they have ever had a whole alcoholic drink. Between 2006 and 2019, there has been a large decrease for all age groups in the percentage of respondents who say that they have had an alcoholic drink. The proportion of 13- to 15-year-olds who say that they have drunk alcohol decreased from 67% in 2006 to 35% in 2019. Over the same time period, the proportion of 11 to 12-year-olds who have drunk alcohol decreased from 26.3% to 8.6%, and for those aged 8 to 10 it decreased from 9.4% to 0.5%.


About this data

Alcohol-related deaths

The number of alcohol-related deaths includes deaths from conditions considered to be wholly attributable to alcohol consumption and a proportion of deaths from conditions considered partially attributable to alcohol consumption, such as cancers of the mouth, oesophagus and liver. Estimates of partially attributable deaths are derived from research into the impact of alcohol on different conditions, along with data on alcohol consumption in the population. It is a broader estimate of the impact of alcohol on mortality compared to the National Statistics definition of alcohol-specific deaths, which includes only wholly attributable conditions. For more information, see the Local Alcohol Profiles for England user guide.

Alcohol-related admissions

The number of alcohol-related hospital admissions is calculated using a method developed by the North West Public Health Observatory. This method is based on alcohol attributable fractions of a range of diseases and injuries that are caused by alcohol consumption. The data presented here is based on the broad measure, which takes account of both primary and secondary diagnoses. There is also a narrow measure that takes account of only diagnoses recorded as primary diagnoses.

Alcohol drinking habits

The Health Survey for England (HSE) consists of an interview that asks adults aged 18 and over who drank in the last week about the maximum amount they drank on any day in the last week. Computer-assisted self-completion interviewing is used to ask young adults aged between 16 and 17 about alcohol consumption to ensure confidentiality. HSE data is weighted for non-response. Data prior to 2006 is not shown due to changes to the methods used by the HSE to convert drinks to units of alcohol.

It also asks children aged eight to 15 about their experience of alcohol. The questions are presented in a self-completion booklet, to allow the child to answer without revealing the answers to their parents. Children are asked “Have you ever had a proper alcoholic drink – a whole drink, not just a sip?” and “Have you ever drunk alcopops?”. They are counted as having drunk alcohol if they answer yes to either question.

For more information, please see the methods report and data quality statement.

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