In cultural terms, characterisations of the British drinking culture as one of excess are too simplistic. Frequent but moderate drinking is more common than is often acknowledged in policy debate. However, increasing risk drinking behaviours are found across a range of settings and contexts, including home drinking among older couples, and social gatherings of family and friends. 1

Increasing risk drinking is more common in people aged 26-64, men, those in employment (especially managerial/professional occupations) and those on higher incomes. 2 3  Binge drinking is more common in males, and also in younger adults (aged 16-44) – although recent trends suggest that binge drinking in younger adults may be declining. 45

Older age is a growing risk factor for alcohol-related harm.  For example, the only group which has shown an increase in drinking frequency in recent years is women over the age of 65; and people aged 45-64 on average drink more regularly than younger groups aged under 45. 6

Evidence has also shown that lesbian and bisexual women aged 20–34 years reported higher weekly alcohol consumption and less abstinence compared with heterosexual women. 7 Among young gay and bisexual men, no differences are identified in alcohol-related behaviours in comparison with heterosexual young men. 8

Cultural and religious practices may play a role in alcohol consumption among different ethnic groups, with many people from Asian or Chinese backgrounds more likely to report that they are abstinent. 9 There can also be a genetic element in drinking patterns, as around 36% of those from north east Asian backgrounds are likely to have less of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase so may metabolise alcohol more slowly. 10

The Inequalities section describes local socio-demographic differences in drinking behaviours in more detail.

Causal factors in relation to the drinking patterns of children and young people are complex, but parental attitudes to alcohol can affect the age at which children and young people start drinking, as well as the pattern of their alcohol use. Weak parental bonds, and both permissive and over-protective approaches to alcohol, may lead to higher levels of misuse by children. 11In addition, peer influence has been linked to drinking behaviour in young adults. 12Evidence also suggests that alcohol marketing exposure has a long term effect on adolescents drinking behaviours. 13

References

  1. Ally et al , “Developing a social practice-based typology,” 2016. [Online]. Available: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.13397/full . [Accessed 15 August 2016].
  2. Office for National Statistics, “Adult Drinking Habits in Great Britain: 2014,” 2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/drugusealcoholandsmoking/bulletins/opinionsandlifestylesurveyadultdrinkinghabitsingreatbritain/2014.
  3. Health and Social Care Information Centre, “Statistics on Alcohol,” June 2015. [Online]. Available: http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB17712/alc-eng-2015-rep.pdf. [Accessed 5 October 2016].
  4. Kuntsche E1, Rehm J, Gmel G., “Characteristics of binge drinkers in Europe,” Soc Sci Med., vol. 59 , no. 1, pp. 113 – 27 , 2004 Jul.
  5. Office for National Statistics, “Adult Drinking Habits in Great Britain: 2014,” 2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/drugusealcoholandsmoking/bulletins/opinionsandlifestylesurveyadultdrinkinghabitsingreatbritain/2014.
  6. Office for National Statistics, “Adult Drinking Habits in Great Britain: 2014,” 2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/drugusealcoholandsmoking/bulletins/opinionsandlifestylesurveyadultdrinkinghabitsingreatbritain/2014.
  7. Department of Health , “NHS Briefing 8: Healthy lifestyles for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people,” 2007. [Online]. Available: http://www.pinktherapy.com/portals/0/downloadables/Health/NHS_LBGT_Healty_Lifestyles.pdf. [Accessed 18 October 2016].
  8. Department of Health , “NHS Briefing 8: Healthy lifestyles for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people,” 2007. [Online]. Available: http://www.pinktherapy.com/portals/0/downloadables/Health/NHS_LBGT_Healty_Lifestyles.pdf. [Accessed 18 October 2016].
  9. Bellis et al, “Holidays, celebrations, and commiserations: measuring drinking during feasting and fasting to improve national and individual estimates of alcohol consumption,” 2015. [Online]. Available: https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-015-0337-0.
  10. Eng MY, Luczak SE, Wall TL, “ALDH2, ADH1B, and ADH1C genotypes in Asians: A literature review.,” Alcohol Res Health, no. 30, p. 22–27, 2007.
  11. C. Matheson, Parental influence on alcohol misuse in adolescents and young people,, NHS Grampian, 2016.
  12. S. Pavis, S. Cunningham-Burley and . A. Amos, “Alcohol consumption and young people: exploring meaning and social context,” Health Education Research, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 311-322, 1996.
  13. Brujin et al , “European longitudinal study on the relationship between adolescents’ alcohol marketing exposure and alcohol use,,” Addiction, vol. 111, no. 8, p. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.13455/full, 2016.