UK drinkers trying to cut down through willpower alone

Date Published

25th April 2016




The research into UK adults’ current habits, behaviours and changing attitudes towards alcohol consumption, shows how one in five of UK drinkers are currently cutting down (9%), or thinking about it (11%)***, yet the majority of these people appear to be doing so without getting any support or guidance.

Among those trying to reduce their drinking right now, 56% are not looking for help and appear to rely solely on willpower to achieve their goal****.

By contrast, only one in seven (14%) are talking to their GPs or nurse about it; one in ten (10%) are seeking help and support from those close to them and just five per cent have joined a support group.

In addition, very few people who are trying to cut down actually keep a record of how much they drink. Eight per cent use a traditional pen and paper diary and only 4 per cent use an app.

Drinkaware CEO Elaine Hindal explains: “It’s positive to see how many people are making the effort to cut down or planning to do so in the future. But, too many are doing so alone without using the support available to them.

“Reducing your alcohol consumption by just a few drinks each week can make a big difference to your health. The benefits of cutting down include having more energy, sleeping better as well as looking and feeling healthier. There are a number of ways to cut down on your alcohol intake, such as avoiding situations where the temptation is high or finding a new hobby or activity. Our website is full of information to get you started and includes a mobile app that will help you track your drinking.”

Cutting back and feeling better

Over a third (35%) of UK adults say they have made an effort to cut down on their drinking or are planning to do so, and for those currently drinking above government guidelines in a typical week, this figure rises to 61%.

Over half (57%) of people believe that it is no longer as acceptable to get drunk now as it was in the past, and more than eight in ten (82%) state that they don’t need to get drunk to have a good night out.

Challenges for cutting down

In the UK, being sociable and drinking alcohol appears to go hand in hand; with a quarter of those who are trying to cut down (27%) saying that there are ‘too many upcoming social occasions’.

In addition, just under a quarter (24%) of this group find that stress is a barrier to cutting back. The insight reveals that changes in personal circumstances such as friendships (21%), work (18%) and partners (16%) are the most common factors that influence people to drink more.

However, the good news is that attempts at cutting down have a lasting positive effect for many people. 45% of people who have tried to cut down on their drinking in the past***** say that in their most recent attempt, they succeeded in reducing the amount they drink on a permanent basis.

Top tips on cutting back

As part of the Drinkaware research, individuals with experience of trying to cut down were asked to provide their advice for people trying to cut back on alcohol consumption. The most popular tips were:

  1. Be strong, determined and have a positive attitude – don’t give up
  2. Avoid scenarios where temptation is high
  3. Take it one step at a time
  4. Limit your alcohol intake
  5. Find new things to do such as a hobby or activity – keep busy

Read the report or email for more information.

If you do want to drink less and need support, whether you’re at home or out and about, use Drinkaware’s free mobile app, to track the units and calories in your drinks and cut back.


  1. *A copy of Drinkaware Monitor 2015: UK Adults’ experience of and views on cutting down can be found here <insert link here>
  2. ** This figure is calculated on the basis of the mid-year 2014 ONS population figure of 46,166,819 adults aged 18-75 in the UK. 90% of these adults drink alcohol. 9% of these are currently cutting down their drinking, of whom 56% had done none of the actions presented to them to get support. 11% of drinkers are thinking about cutting down, of whom 58% are not planning to do any of the actions listed to them as means of support. Thus 10.3% of 46,166,819 UK adults aged 18-75 are cutting or planning to cut their alcohol intake without doing any of the actions presented to them as ways of seeking support.
  3. ***Based on: Currently trying to cut down: 194 respondents; Thinking of cutting down: 220 respondents.
  4. **** Individuals were presented with a list of possible actions they may have undertaken when trying to cut down (such as speaking with a GP, asking those close to them for support and understanding). 57% of individuals had done none of the actions listed.
  5. *****Based on: Individuals who have tried to cut down in the past (but are not currently trying/thinking of cutting down): 276 respondents.
    Drinkaware is an independent organisation which aims to get people to think differently about alcohol. Our entire focus is on getting people to understand the harm it can do to their health, families and those around them. If people understand the impact drink can have, they are more likely to make a change. An independent charity established in 2007,
  6. 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.

Of those surveyed, 1,136 are male and 1,167 are female. 688 individuals drink above government guidelines in a typical week. 2,080 individuals ever drink. 194 individuals are presently trying to cut down their drinking.