UK Alcohol Facts & Useful Statistics

Published On: November 21, 2019

alcohol facts

Our modern culture is inundated with alcohol, whether out at a sporting event or a night on the town with friends. 

It is almost impossible to avoid the spectacle of beer and liquor hanging from signs and being sold in every direction.

People are now beginning to drink at a younger age and consuming much more, drinking at levels never witnessed since the dawn of our modern era.

In this article, we’ll examine the breadth and reach of alcohol in our society using statistics that clearly reveal its massive impact on the world as a whole.

Alcoholism Among Young People.

In the U.K., while levels of alcoholism are on the decline, they still represent a substantial portion of the youth and are at higher levels than many other nations in Europe in a study conducted by the World Health Organization’s Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children.

England, Wales, and Scotland were found to have more 15-year olds having had two or more alcoholic drinks than the total average among 42 countries, which was 22%. [1]

  • 8% of children 11-15 years old had drunk alcohol in the last week, from a Parliamentary survey [2]
  • Among 16 to 24-year old drinkers, 17% consumed more than 14 units, compared with just 2% age 65 and over [2]
  • In 2014, among Pupils who drank in the last week, 45% drank more than four units on average [2]
  • In 2018 44% said they had ever had an alcoholic drink [3]
  • 81 per cent of young offenders aged 11-17 were identified as having alcohol-related health risk or harm, with 77% scoring within a possible alcohol-dependent range [4]
  • A third (32%) of 13-year olds and two-thirds (70%) of 15-year olds in Scotland have drunk alcohol [5]
  • Worldwide, more than a quarter (26.5%) of all 15-19-year-olds are current drinkers, amounting to 155 million adolescents [14]

According to a study from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the U.S., nearly a third (30.3%) of young respondents at 15-years of age indicated having at least one drink in their lives, while a whopping 7.4 million people between 12 and 20 years old had alcohol just in the last month alone, representing a full 19..7% of this age group.[6]

These staggering numbers outline a widespread problem of substance abuse among today’s youth, and early exposure to alcohol can increase the likelihood of addiction long into adulthood.

Those living with people who drink are far more likely to turn to alcohol themselves, and studies show that as young people continue to age their likelihood of drinking rises also.

The most common source from which young people obtain alcohol is from their parents, and the most common setting where they drink it at is in the home according to a National Health Service study in the U.K.

A large number of young people reported arguments or vomiting after drinking, as well as losing money or other items and damaging clothes or belongings.[3]

Alcoholism Among Women

Women are increasingly finding themselves the victims of this disease, with the gap between men and women that favours male alcohol abuse quickly diminishing.

A study conducted in 2017 by the NIAAA that looked at habits from 2001 to 2002 as well as between 2012 and 2013 found that high-risk drinking, which involves consuming over three drinks in a single day or over seven in a week, is rising to the tune of 58% among women.[7]

Although alcoholism is on the rise across nearly all age groups and demographics, the dramatic increase among women is particularly disturbing as it showcases just how commonplace alcohol has become within families and society.

  • 17% of 15-year olds reported drinking in the past week from a 2014 study [2]
  • There were 13.3 female alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 in Scotland, significantly higher than England and Wales [2]
  • Girls are more likely to be admitted to hospital for alcohol-related reasons than boys, and at younger ages [8]
  • The effects of alcohol are worse on young women than on young men [9]

Statistics are showing that women are catching up to men and the gap is shrinking between the amount of alcohol each group drinks overall.

While in the past, men born from 1891 to 1910 were twice as likely as females to drink alcohol and over three times more likely to be involved in problematic use, those numbers have since shifted dramatically in every way, reaching comparable numbers from the year 1991 through to 2000.

Because of the higher fat to water ratio in women than men, women can experience severe problems that impact reproductive health as well as child-birth.

Alcoholism in the UK

Alcohol is a deeply ingrained part of the culture within the U.K., with the most common times to abuse alcohol during celebrations that could include weddings, anniversaries, or other types of celebratory events.

When it comes to drinking to get drunk and heavy drinking, the UK leads the world in this category, averaging nearly one time per week. Other English speaking nations weren’t far behind to help top off the list, with the U.S., Canada, and Australia just behind their U.K. counterparts.

According to Karen Tyrell of the drug and alcohol charity Addaction, four out of every five people in the U.K. with an alcohol problem are not receiving any kind of treatment or therapy for their condition.

To help spell out the situation a bit more clearly, some illuminating statistics show that:

  • A 2014 report found 58% of adults had drunk in the last week from being surveyed [2]
  • 28.9 million people reported drinking alcohol in the week previous to being interviewed in the U.K. [10]
  • 2.5 million people drink over 14 units of alcohol on their heaviest drinking day in the U.K. [10]
  • 82% of the population in the U.K. age 15 and overuse alcohol [11]
  • Alcohol is by and large the most widely-used recreation drug in the U.K. [12]

Studies show that those in the U.K. most likely to fall victim to the use of alcohol are within higher income group, and come from urban areas. [11]

Also, in homes where the parents drink, the children are far more likely to take up the habit themselves, an indication of the hereditary nature of the disease.

Three in four people in the U.K. (77%) report having alcohol in 2017, while more than one in four (26%) engaged in binge drinking at least once per month.

By identifying the situations that are more likely to lead to alcoholism and diagnosing the problem at an earlier stage, people can be far more likely to receive the treatment they need before it becomes too late.

Global Alcoholism

Needless to say, the societal problems attributed to alcohol aren’t limited to a single nation but span the entire global population en masse.

To illuminate this point, adults around the globe drink 5 full litres of pure alcohol annually from various drinks containing alcohol on average.[13]

The concentrated region where alcohol consumption is the highest worldwide puts Europe in the first place, with the Americas coming in second and Africa after that.

Around the world, alcohol use is on the rise and will eclipse Europe by expectations as the leading region of alcohol consumption worldwide by 2030, according to projections.

  • in 2016, alcoholism was the leading factor for premature death and disability among people aged 15-49 years old [14]
  • There were 2.8 million deaths worldwide attributed to alcohol [14]
  • Global alcohol consumption has increased by 70% in less than 30 years [15]
  • There has been no progress in reducing the per capita total alcohol consumption in the world since 2010 [14]
  • Alcohol per capita consumption is projected to increase until 2025 amid people age 15 and older in the Americas, South-East Asia, and the Western Pacific [14]

Judging from the numbers, it doesn’t take much to see that alcohol and alcoholism are widespread realities affecting every corner of the world, from London to Hong Kong.

In nations like Georgia and Colombia, as much as a full 50% of male drinkers have been classified as “heavy drinkers” in select surveys.

The clear reality of the situation is that the wealth of nations and accessibility of alcohol is outpacing the capability of society to adequately address these problems in a responsible way, leaving many wondering where to turn to for more information on how to approach the phenomenon.

Health Effects from Alcohol

Alcohol enters the body through the mouth, finding its way into your bloodstream through blood vessels in your mouth and tongue, inside the stomach cavity, and the vast majority being taken into the body through the small intestine.[16]

While in the stomach, alcohol can agitate fluids, causing acid buildup that leads to nausea and even ulcers after years of abuse.

These effects also have the potential to inhibit appetite and cause a lack of nutritional intake among regular alcoholics.

After entering the blood, alcohol then permeates throughout the entire body, eventually undergoing the filtration process by the liver and kidneys.

While in the blood, high to extremely high levels of alcohol can cause slowness of breath, dizziness, nausea, or loss of consciousness.

Alcohol also causes the kidneys to work harder and produce more urine than usual, while the liver is only capable of handling a single drink per hour at a healthy, normal pace.

These conditions can lead to double-vision or severe impairments that cause irregular behaviour in the person drinking.

The statistics regarding the damage alcohol can do to the body are quite alarming, and include:

  • Liver disease is the most common cause of alcohol-related deaths in the UK [2]
  • Harmful use of alcohol caused approximately 1.7 million deaths from noncommunicable diseases in 2016 [14]
  • Alcohol was responsible for approximately 1.2 million deaths from digestive and cardiovascular diseases, 0.6 million for each condition in 2016 [14]

The effects of alcohol can be felt almost immediately, making an impact in as little as five to ten minutes.

Common symptoms include becoming more outward socially, more easily aggravated, or a lack of judgment and compulsiveness.

Eventually, people become disoriented and simple tasks such as walking straight or driving become monumental undertakings that may pose a risk to the person under the influence.

The consequences of alcohol aren’t simply temporary and then gone, but rather follow the body both the next morning and with continued use over time.

Hangovers are caused by an overworked liver, leading to dryness of mouth, intense bouts of nausea, and throbbing headaches that can lead to disassociation and incoordination.

Because of all the agitation within the stomach caused by alcohol, the toxins and acid present make persistent vomiting a common symptom of hangovers.

Long-term effects can include an inconsistent heartbeat due to changes in body temperature that elevate blood pressure and shrinking of the brain that impairs the ability to learn, think, and remember.

The Dangers of Alcohol and Alcoholism

A study done by investigators at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Canada and the Technische Universitat in Dresden, Germany found intriguing results showing that, when compared to three decades previously, people all over the world are consuming much more alcohol and the trend is set to continue for decades into the future.

Published by a publication known at The Lancet, which looks at alcohol use across 189 countries and several decades, projects the steady increase of alcohol use until 2030 at the least.

In the United States alone, it is estimated that 15 million people suffer from alcoholism and that 40% of all car accident deaths are associated with the use of alcohol. [8]

Blackouts can be extremely common, as alcohol interferes with the part of the brain responsible for memories, making it possible to have no recollection of what happened while you were drinking.

Alcohol can also be responsible for severe behaviour changes, and hallucinations that lead to erratic actions and poor decisions.

While these effects can take place suddenly in a single moment, the ramifications could have severe consequences that last a lifetime.

  • Alcohol-related conditions were responsible for 104,030 hospital admissions in England in 2014/15 and 35,059 stays in Scotland [2]
  • There were 8,680 alcohol-related deaths in the UK in 2014 [2]
  • Alcohol is the sixth leading cause of ill health and premature death in high-income countries [17]
  • Alcohol is the most common factor in deaths in the group aged from 15-29 [1]
  • An estimated 0.9 million injury deaths were linked to alcohol globally in 2016 [15]
  • 370,000 road injury deaths were linked to alcohol in 2016, with 187,000 of them being other than the driver [15]

Dependency is common among regular and heavy drinkers, creating an emotional and physical bond to the substance that can be hard to get rid of.

After prolonged periods of addiction, cutting use can lead to devastating withdrawal symptoms that can sometimes prove fatal. 

Drinking too much may also make it harder for the brain to form long-term memories, impairing regular brain functions and damaging cells.

This can make it difficult to do things that were once simple, such as speak clearly or maintain healthy reaction times.

Alcoholism is well-known for its potential to destroy jobs, ruin relationships, and impose a wide number of health problems leading to increased expenses and reduced lifespans.

The adverse effects of alcohol use are extensive, and continued use leads to an increased risk of health problems and financial stress.

Unfortunately, many alcoholics are unaware of the dangers posed by their alcoholism until it becomes too late or dependence is formed, another reason why awareness plays such a crucial role in today’s society.

Although alcoholism is on the rise and there seems to be more availability of alcoholic beverages than ever before, our society need not be left without hope.

With the proper knowledge and a heightened level of awareness, we can prepare ourselves to deal with the never-ending supply of alcoholic drinks at our restaurants, sporting events, and social gatherings.

Drinking responsibly begins with first knowing how alcohol affects us and making choices that keep us out of harm’s way. Whether you or someone you know is facing problems due to the use of alcohol, many options exist for mending the damage and starting a new path toward a brighter future.

When clear signs of alcoholism make themselves known, there’s no need to sit idly by while someone’s life spirals out of control.

If you or someone you know is combating the harmful influences of excessive alcohol, contact a licensed professional right away and reach out to your local Alcoholics Anonymous chapter to find support from those struggling with the same problems.

Alcoholics need not be alone in their fight against alcohol, and many treatment plans accept a wide range of insurance plans, as well as community organizations to reach out to for support.

With the right help and information, no one needs to remain under the inhibiting condition of alcoholism when better opportunities await.


  1. Inchley, et al. “Growing Up Unequal: Gender and Socioeconomic Differences in Young People’s Health and Well-being.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 2016,
  2. Harker, Rachael. “Statistics on Alcohol.” House of Commons Library, UK Parliament, 30 January 2017,
  3. National Health Service. “Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England 2018.” NHS Digital, National Health Services, 20 August 2019,
  4. Newbury-Birch et al. “Alcohol-related Risk and Harm Amongst Young Offenders Aged 11-17.”, US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 2015,
  5. Alcohol Focus Scotland. “Alcohol & Young People.” Alcohol Focus Scotland, Alcohol Focus Scotland, February 2015,
  6. NIH. “Alcohol Facts and Statistics Fact Sheet.” National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, October 2019,
  7. Cloptin, Jennifer. “Alcohol Consumption Among Women is on the Rise.” WebMD, WebMD LLC, 18 July 2018,
  8. Foundation for a Drug-Free World. “A Brief History of Alcohol and Alcoholic Beverages.” Foundation for a Drug-Free World, Foundation for a Drug-Free World,
  9. World Health Organization. “Infographic – Alcohol and Young Women.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization,
  10. Caul, Sarah. “Adult Drinking Habits in Great Britain: 2014.” Office for National Statistics, Office for National Statistics, 8 March 2016,
  11. World Health Organization. “Alcohol Country Fact Sheet – United Kingdom (2019).” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 2019,
  12. Alcohol Change UK. “Alcohol and Other Drugs – Recreational Drug Use in the UK.” Alcohol Change UK, Alcohol Change UK,
  13. GreenFacts. “Scientific Facts on Alcohol.” GreenFacts, Congeneris sprl,
  14. World Health Organization. “Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2018.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 2018,
  15. >GBD 2016 Alcohol Collaborators. “Alcohol Use and Burden for 195 Countries and Territories, 1990-2016: a Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016” The Lancet, Elsevier Inc., 23 August 2018,
  16. DerSarkissian, Carol. “How Alcohol Affects Your Body.” WebMD, WebMD LLC, 13 October 2019,
  17. World Health Organization. “Fact Sheet – Alcohol (2017).” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 2017,

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