Wednesday, 9 March 2016

ONS figures show the British are a sober lot these days

Not that you'd get this impression from the headlines that were run the other day following the (inevitable) revelation that loads of people exceed the new lower drink guidelines from our nanny state:

Around 2.5 million people in Great Britain - 9% of drinkers - consume more than the new weekly recommended limit for alcohol in a single day, latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

The 2014 data predates the new limit of 14 units of alcohol per week for men which began in January.

Although habits may start to change, experts say the figures are concerning.

Well this shouldn't be concerning because the truth in all this data is that the British are now a rather sober lot. It's not just the 20% or so of adults who are non-drinkers but facts like this one:

The ONS figures show 58% of people - 28.9 million - drink some alcohol in a typical week.

This figure is lower than a decade ago but has remained stable over the last few years.

Young people are less likely to have consumed alcohol in the last week than those who are older.

So over four in ten Britons don't have a drink in an average week and this figure is lower for the young. Far from the terrible image of binge drinking Britain, we actually live in a country where people have taken that 'drink responsibly, drink in moderation' mantra to heart.

We've known for a while that there are between one and two million people who probably do have a drink problem and probably should do something about their levels of consumption. Add to this people who on one night or another exceed 14 units - probably not to do so again for weeks or even months (remmber that wedding party don't you?) - and you've got your 2.5 million. For context - and remember that a good number, perhaps most, of these people aren't people with a drink problem - this is less than 5% of the adult population.

What we have is national policy directed at the 30 million or so drinkers rather than at fewer than 2 million problem drinkers. This is not a public health problem but a problem better dealt with through the places those problem drinkers present - their doctor's surgery, hospital accident and emergency units, police cells and specialist clinics for those that self-diagnose. There is no need for us to squander millions of taxpayers cash on nannying the hell out of the 95% of drinkers who are doing themselves and their friends or family absolutely no harm at all.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, there may be folks who overdo the alcohol on the traditional weekly night out. However, that doesn't mean they overindulge every weekend, nor on the rest of the nights of the week. Furthermore, despite what Dame Sally and the rest of the Ban-it Puritans say, there is sound, proven, evidence that moderate drinking does have health benefits. So that will be my guide!