Skip To Content

    Britons Are Notably Less Drunk Than We Used To Be

    The country is sobering up as young people cut back on booze. Has anyone thought through the consquences?

    It might be hard to believe but Britons are drinking less. Quite a lot less.


    Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show the proportion of men who drank alcohol at least once a week fell from 72% to 64% beteen 2005 and 2012.

    But what's going on?

    We're all sobering up. This graph shows the percentage of the public who had a drink in the last week – and it's continuing to decline.


    The ONS asked 12,500 people whether they'd had a drink in the week before their interview.

    They found that a third of men had not drunk booze in the seven days before being surveyed. And almost half of women had not touched a drop over the same period.

    This is a substantial and sustained decline on the 1980s and 1990s, where it seems everyone was permanently drunk.

    The number of heavy drinkers is also falling.


    Although the number of people drinking to excess – the dotted lines – remains remarkably flat.

    This suggests that mid-level drinkers are reining in their consumption, while heavy boozers are more reluctant to stay sober.

    In part this is because young people can't keep up with the older generation's drinking habits.

    The youth of today... are relatively boring.

    Or at least, more likely to be sober than people in their 40s and 50s, who continue to neck back gin and tonics like there's no tomorrow.

    And this is really pronounced when you look at which age groups drink on at least five different nights a week.


    There's a lot of permanently sozzled pensioners out there.

    The recession didn't help, since getting drunk requires funds. Less than half of the unemployed have had a drink in the last week.


    Although the young do their best for the team by binge drinking on the increasingly rare occassions that they do go out.


    Although students are actually less likely to be heavy drinkers than their peers who have jobs. Getting trollied is an expensive business.

    And let's not forget the poor, persecuted smoker. Who is twice as likely to be a heavy drinker as their nicotine-free friends.


    Well, that's hardly a surprise is it?

    But smoking – a natural bedfellow of heavy drinking – is also declining in popularity, which is bad news for landlords and drinks companies.

    So next time you're enduring a horrific hangover, consider the prospect that drinkers could one day be in a minority.


    At the current rate of decline it will be just a couple of years before half of Britain's women have been sober for the whole of the last week.

    That said, the Office for National Statistics warns that surveys such as this one "record lower levels of consumption than would be expected from data on alcohol sales".

    In part this is because everyone likes to think that they're keeping their boozing under control – and they don't keep track of how many units they're drinking at home.

    All the same, we hope you're braced for a new, sober world.

    BuzzFeed Daily

    Keep up with the latest daily buzz with the BuzzFeed Daily newsletter!

    Newsletter signup form