Half of UK middle aged men drinking above guidelines

Date Published

13th May 2016



  • Approximately 3.5 million middle-aged men are drinking more than 14 units per week (6 pints of 4% beer), with an average intake of 37 units per week (16 pints of 4% beer).
  • Just over half (53%) of these drinkers don’t believe their drinking could have an impact on their health.
  • Even small reductions in alcohol intake can lower blood pressure, reduce weight and improve mental health as well as reducing the chances of death from alcohol related illnesses.
  • Drinkaware launches a new campaign to help middle aged men to ‘Have a little less, feel a lot better’.

New research from leading alcohol education charity, Drinkaware, suggests almost half (44%)** of middle-aged men in the UK are drinking in ways that are likely to be putting their health at risk. Approximately 3.5 million men aged 45-64 are consuming more than the low risk guidelines of 14 units per week. On average this group consumes 37 units in a typical week: two and a half times the guidelines. Furthermore, approximately 800,000*** men in this age group are drinking 50 or more units in a typical week, the equivalent of 21 pints.

Despite the latest government statistics highlighting how the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions in England are highest in this age group and more than double than amongst under 40s1, the research from Drinkaware also suggests a lack of awareness about the harms associated with their drinking.

More than half (53%) of middle aged men drinking above the low-risk guidelines do not believe they will incur increased health problems if they continue drinking at their current level, with almost half (49%) of these drinkers also believing moderate drinking is good for your health****.

Reasons for drinking and the consequences

Alcohol can be viewed as a ‘crutch’ for middle-aged men, with half (50%) turning to alcohol at least some of the time to cheer themselves up if they’re in a bad mood. Men within this group also continue to suffer the effects of peer pressure, often assumed to be something experienced by younger demographics – 45% of men aged 45-64 drink at least some of the time to fit in with a group they like or to be liked.

When discussing the consequences of their drinking;

  • Nearly a third (29%) of the middle-aged men drinking above government low-risk guidelines have found they could not stop drinking once they started
  • Over a quarter (27%) have experienced feelings of guilt or remorse after drinking and almost a third (32%) have been unable to remember what happened the night before because of alcohol*****

Drinking a little less can make a big difference

The research, Drinkaware Monitor 2015: UK adults’ experience of and views on cutting down******, shows middle-aged men who drink over the low-risk guidelines are drinking, on average, 37 units in a typical week. If the average man in this group were to cut out just one drink each day he consumes alcohol his risk of an alcohol-related death would almost halve.2

Elaine Hindal, Chief Executive at Drinkaware, explains:

“For a large number of middle-aged men, drinking is part of their daily routine and often goes unnoticed. As there are often no immediate negative consequences to their drinking, they are unaware of how their drinking may be impacting on their health.

Our ‘Have a little less, feel a lot better’ campaign, which launches today, aims to show these drinkers that reducing alcohol consumption, even by just a few drinks each week can begin to make a big difference to their long-term health. This includes reducing blood pressure, improving mental health, losing weight and increasing energy levels.”

To launch the campaign, Drinkaware has created a free, interactive tool to help people understand what a small change in their drinking would mean to them, alongside help and advice to support them to cut down on their drinking.

Further information can be found here www.drinkaware.co.uk/little-less.

*Link to the Government guidelines here

** Figure for men drinking above low-risk guidelines calculated using UK population figures from ONS, here (Mid-2014 zip)

  • UK population of males aged 45-64 = 8,121,575
  • 44% of 8,121,575 = 3,573,493
  • Based on 44% of men aged 45-64 surveyed drinking more than 14 units in a typical week

***Figure for number of men drinking 50 or more units above calculated using same ONS figure above:

  • 10% of 8,121,575 = 812,158

**** Based on 160 men aged 45-64 who drink more than 14 units in a typical week. ***** These figures are based on men aged 45-64 who drink more than 14 units in a typical week saying they have ever experienced the named instanced in the past 12 months.

****** Drinkaware commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct a survey of UK adults in November/December 2015 to examine their drinking patterns and behaviours, their attitudes towards alcohol and drinking and their experiences of cutting down or attempting to cut down the amount of alcohol they drink.

Ipsos MORI conducted a quota survey with 2,303 UK adults aged 18-75 using an online panel. Quotas were set based on the known population profile of adults aged 18-75, and the final data were weighted to reflect this profile. 476 of these individuals were men aged 45-64.

As a charity working to reduce alcohol-related harm in the UK, and provide information and support on alcohol and drinking-related issues, Drinkaware draws on research and evidence in order to determine where and how best to focus its work for maximum impact.

A copy of Drinkaware Monitor 2015: UK adults’ experience of and views on cutting down can be found here