The lifestyle survey is compiled by the ONS from a poll of nearly 8,000 people over the age of 16 across the UK and has found that the number of adults stating they had drunk alcohol in the last week has dropped from 64.2% in 2005 to 56.9% in 2016. This equates to a drop of around 29 million people across the entire population, the ONS said.
In addition, the number of teetotallers had risen by 2 percentage points, to around 20.9%, equivalent to around 10.6 million people.
The findings agree with the British Beer and Pub Association’s data on the sales of pure alcohol.
In what might be considered a surprise to some, younger consumers were the least likely group to have drunk in the last week – around 46% of those aged 16-24, compared to 64% of those aged between 45-64. Middle aged drinkers are most likely to drink alcohol each day.
A third of the men aged 45 to 64 and a quarter of the women had been binge drinking in the past week, the survey showed.
Dr Tony Rao, co-chairman of the older people’s substance misuse working group at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, believes these figures should act as a “wake-up call” to the drinking habits of the baby boomers.
He points out that problem drinking in older age groups is a real threat, with alcohol-related hospital admissions and mental health problems on the rise.
He says: “Alcohol abuse is not a young person problem.
“It is a problem in older age groups, and that’s not going to go away.”
England had the highest proportion of drinkers, at 57.4% and Scotland the lowest, at 53%, showing a regional variation. People in the South West were also most likely to have consumed alcohol in the last week, with 70%, compared to the lowest region, London, at just 47%.
Drinkers earning £40,000 or more are 50% more likely to have drunk in the past week, compared with those on £10,000 to £15,000.