UK adults get drunk more often than anywhere else in the world


Britons get drunk more often than anyone in world: UK tops major global survey followed by the US, Canada and Australia

  • The study comes amid an overall downward trend of drinking levels in the UK 
  • It is the 8th annual report and claims to be the largest drug survey in the world
  • English speaking countries led the way for how often their citizens get drunk
  • The US, Canada and Australia closely followed the UK at the top of the rankings 

Adults in the UK get drunk more often than anywhere else in the world, rankings show.

Britons reported getting intoxicated an average of 51.1 times in a 12-month period, almost once a week.

In comparison, the global average is just 33, according to an analysis of data from people living in 36 countries.  

English-speaking countries led the way for how often people get drunk, with the US, Canada and Australia closely following the UK.

The findings come from the eight annual Global Drugs Survey, thought to be the largest poll on substance use in the world. 

Critics say the findings dispute a major study last week which showed Britons are drinking less alcohol than they did ten years ago. 

Britons reported getting intoxicated 51 times in a 12-month period - almost once a week. They were closely followed by people in the US and Canada (map shows how many times in a year the average adult gets drunk)

Britons reported getting intoxicated 51 times in a 12-month period – almost once a week. They were closely followed by people in the US and Canada (map shows how many times in a year the average adult gets drunk)

Experts believe this is being driven by young people, the ‘millennial’ generation, who tend to be far more restrained in their drinking habits than older groups.

Researchers based in London surveyed 5,400 people from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and more than 120,000 globally.

Professor Adam Winstock, founder of the Global Drugs Survey, said while fewer people were drinking, many who were are doing so in a potentially harmful way. 

He added: ‘We get told too much is bad, and it is, but current guidelines fail to accept the pleasure of intoxication and give little guide on difference between being a little drunk and a lot drunk, and doing it three-four times a year versus weekly. We need to have that conversation.

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‘In the UK we don’t tend to do moderation, we end up getting drunk as the point of the evening.

THIRD OF WOMEN HAVE BEEN TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF SEXUALLY WHILE DRUNK OR HIGH 

Some 29.3 per cent of women who took part in the global survey said they had been taken advantage of sexually.

One in four of them said it had happened in the last year.  

Two thirds took place in a private house, while 70 per cent involved someone they knew. 

The incidents involved unwanted kissing, oral sex, sexual touching and penetration.   

Almost all respondents who said this happened within the previous year did not report the incident to police.

Forty-three per cent chose not to because they felt partly responsible.

Researcher Alexandra Aldridge said people can feel reluctant to use the words sexual assault because they may believe their experience is less valid if they are intoxicated.

She added: ‘Clearly people are feeling responsible in some way for their actions, and I think a lot of people who experience harassment or being taken advantage of can really relate to that.’  

‘Until culture changes and we become more European and moderate in our drinking, we might have to bite the bullet and think about how to advise people to get drunk drinking less.

HOW OFTEN DO PEOPLE GET DRUNK ON AVERAGE IN YOUR COUNTRY? 

UNITED KINGDOM

US

CANADA

AUSTRALIA

DENMARK

INDIA

IRELAND

MEXICO

CZECH REPUBLIC

FINLAND

BELGIUM

NEW ZEALAND

FRANCE

SPAIN

SWEDEN

SLOVAKIA

BALKANS

ITALY

AUSTRIA

NORWAY

NETHERLANDS

SWITZERLAND

BRAZIL

HUNGARY

ARGENTINA

COLOMBIA

GERMANY

PORTUGAL

CHILE

51.1

50.3

47.9

47.4

41.7

41

40.7

38.2

36.8

34.9

34.7

33.6

32.2

31.9

31.9

31.7

31.5

30

29.2

29

28.6

28.1

27.3

24.9

23.6

22

21.5

20.2

16.4

‘Getting drunk carries risks of injury and health harm, but we need to start highlighting the risks at different levels of drinking even if they are above safe limits.’

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Current NHS guidelines say adults shouldn’t drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week – around six pints of beer. 

The survey found the UK is second behind Australia in how many people sought emergency treatment following alcohol use in the last 12 months – 3.7 per cent of respondents.

UK drinkers regretted just under a fifth (18.5 per cent) of their drinking sessions, compared to 20 per cent globally.

Women consistently reported feeling post-drinking regret more often than men, while German women over the age of 25 were most likely to be concerned about their sessions. 

But the Alcohol Information Partnership, an alcohol industry body which promotes balanced debate, dismissed the findings.

A spokesperson said: ‘This report runs contrary to the vast weight of the data. 

‘Major reports by globally-respected organisations such as the World Health Organisation and the ONS have consistently shown that drinking in the UK has been falling for more than a decade and Brits are actually drinking less than many of our European neighbours.

‘The industry remains committed to tackling harmful drinking. The evidence shows that the way people drink in the UK is changing with people increasingly choosing fewer, better quality drinks, which is a positive move in the right direction. 

‘This survey suggests that we as a society have a long way to go, but robust recent data clearly indicates we are on the right track. 

‘The vast majority of adults who drink alcohol do so at a level which is within the Government’s guidelines, and a recent report published in The Lancet demonstrated that drinking levels in the UK have been falling over the past 30 years.’

TEENS DRINKING LESS THAN EVER 

Teenage drinking has declined more dramatically in the UK than many other European countries, a World Health Organisation (WHO) report found last year.

A large reduction in weekly alcohol use among adolescents was observed between 2002 and 2014 in the majority of the 36 countries featured in the report.

The largest decline in prevalence for both boys and girls was in England, where spirit and beer consumption has also fallen significantly.

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The WHO report, which examines alcohol-related behaviour among 15-year-olds in Europe, was led by researchers at the University of St Andrews.

More than half (50.3 per cent) of teenage boys in England drank weekly in 2002, compared with just 10 per cent in 2014, the research found.

Wales had the second largest drop in prevalence for boys, from 47.6 per cent to 11.8 per cent across the same period.

More than two in five (43.1 per cent) girls in England drank alcohol weekly in 2002, falling to fewer than one in 10 (8.9 per cent) in 2014.

This was the largest decline for girls across the 36 countries, followed by Scotland which saw prevalence drop from 41.1 per cent to 10.7 per cent.

Dr Jo Inchley, lead editor of the report, said: ‘Overall reductions in harmful drinking have been greatest in countries that traditionally have had higher prevalence, such as Great Britain and the Nordic region.

‘This makes it clear that change is possible; however, more should be done to ensure that adolescents are effectively protected from the harms caused by alcohol.’

The largest decreases in beer consumption were observed among 15-year-old boys in Wales, Denmark and England.

Almost two in five (39.7 per cent) boys in England drank beer weekly in 2002, compared with just 7.6 per cent in 2014.

The largest decline in spirit drinking was among teenagers in England, Scotland and Denmark, the report said.

Almost a third (32.8 per cent) of boys and girls in England drank spirits weekly in 2002, dropping to 4.1 per cent by 2014.

Meanwhile, only 28.1 per cent of teenagers said they had been drunk two or more times in their life in 2014.

This compares with more than half (54.9 per cent) 12 years previously. 



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