Consequences: Adult drinking in the UK

What are the social and personal problems related to alcohol? Here is the UK data around alcohol dependency, alcohol-related crime, hospital admissions and deaths.

Social and personal problems related to alcohol

Alcohol-related crime

There were an estimated 305,048 alcohol-related recorded crimes in England in 2012/13. This represents a 19% decrease from 375,489 alcohol-related recorded crimes in 2008/09.  (Alcohol-related recorded crime is calculated using attributable fractions to estimate what proportion of crimes were committed by someone who had been drinking).1

There were approximately 491,000 incidents of violent crime in England and Wales in 2015/16 where the victim believed the offender to be under the influence of alcohol (40% of all violent crime).2 14% of violent incidents occurred in or around a pub or club.3

Alcohol dependence and treatment

In England in 2014, 1.9% of adults aged 16  and over were harmful or mildly dependent drinkers (AUDIT scores of 16 to 19) and 1.2% were probably dependent drinkers (AUDIT scores of 20 or more).4

Of men in England in 2014, harmful, mildly dependent, and probably dependent drinking was most common among 25 to 34 year olds (6.6%).5 For women, this level of problem drinking was most frequent among those aged 16 – 24.6 In England, drinking at hazardous levels has declined over the past 15 years, down from 36.8% in 2000 to 27.9% in 2014.7

Only 6% of people with alcohol dependence access treatment each year.8

In 2016 in England 188,331 prescription items were given (in a primary care setting or NHS hospital), for the treatment of alcohol dependency.9 This is a 4% decrease from 196,018 in 2015, which has broken the trend of a year on year stead increase since 2004. In the last 10 years, the number of items prescribed has increased by 63%.

In 2017, the Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) of these prescription items to treat alcohol dependency amounted to £4.87 million, 24% higher than in 2015 and more than double the level 10 years ago.10

Hospital admissions

Alcohol related hospital admission can be measured using either a broad or narrow measure (explained here).

Based on a broad measure of alcohol-related hospital admissions:

In 2015/16, there were an estimated 1,119,022 admissions related to alcohol consumption in England, where an alcohol-related disease, injury or condition was the primary reason for hospital admission or a secondary diagnosis.11 While comparability to previous years must be used with caution due to changes in recording practices over time, figures show this is an increase of 3% from 2014/15 when there were 1,085,830 estimated alcohol-related hospital admissions.12

Men were more likely to be admitted to hospital with alcohol related diseases, injuries and conditions than women (65% vs 35% of admissions).13

Based on a narrow measure of alcohol-related hospital admissions:

In 2015/16, there were an estimated 339,282 alcohol-related hospital admissions in England where the primary diagnosis or external causes recorded in secondary diagnosis fields were attributable to the consumption of alcohol – this is based on a revised, narrow measure.14

As the narrow measure is less likely to be affected by changes in recording practices over time, data shows a similar level as in 2013/14 when there were 333,010 alcohol-related admissions, and a 34% increase from 2004/05 when there were 253,370 alcohol-related admissions.15

People admitted to hospital

Between 2013/14 and 2015/16, 12,998 under 18s in England were admitted to hospital because of alcohol – that’s a crude rate of 37.4 per 100,000 population. This represents a 2.9 increase from 2013/14 and 2015/16. (Alcohol-specific admissions – under 18 year olds).16

In 2015/16, 208,277 men and 98,970 women in England were admitted to hospital because of an alcohol specific condition. Combined, that is over 300,000 people, and represents a 60% increase since 2014/15. (Alcohol-specific admission – males and females).17

 Alcohol-related deaths

In 2015, there were 8,758 alcohol-related deaths in the UK, a small increase since 2014 (8,697) and 2013 (8,416). 65% of alcohol-related deaths in 2015 were male.18

The 2015 age-standardised rate of 14.2 alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 people is lower than the peak level in 2008 (15.8 deaths per 100,000 people). However, the 2015 rate remains considerably higher than the 1994 rate of 9.1 deaths per 100,000 people.19

Figure 1. Number of alcohol-related deaths and age standardised alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 per population, UK, 1994 to 2015.20

In 2015, the age-specific alcohol-related death rate was highest among males aged 60-64 (44.9 deaths per 100,000) and among females aged 55 to 59 years (23.1 deaths per 100,000).21

In England, alcohol-related death rates for men were highest in the North East (25.0 per 100,000) and North West (24.1 per 100,000).  Alcohol-related death rates were lowest in the East of England (12.6 per 100,000) and South East (14.2 per 100,000).22

In England, alcohol-related death rates for women were highest among regions in the North East (14.4 per 100,000) and North West (12.8 per 100,000) and lowest among those in London  (6.1 per 100,000).23

Estimates suggest from 2013-2015 49% of deaths from liver disease in England are as a result of alcohol-related liver disease, the most common cause of deaths from liver disease.24

Costs of alcohol harm

It is commonly said that alcohol harm costs society £21bn annually; taking into account £3.5bn costs to the NHS, £11bn in alcohol-related crime costs and £7.3bn in lost productivity.25 Note: the source and methodology of this calculation is unclear and has been challenged.26

A 2016 Public Health England evidence review provides further details on the evidence base for the overall cost of alcohol-related harm. You can find the report here

Regional variances

Alcohol Concern has produced an interactive Alcohol Harm Map that provides local level statistics on a range of alcohol harm measures.  You can explore these local level statistics via the data visualisation tool on the Alcohol Concern website.


[1] Public Health England Local Alcohol Profiles for England 2012/13 [Online] Available from [Accessed 24 October 2017].

[2] ONS (2017) Crime statistics: Nature of crime tables, 2015/16 – violent crime. [Online] Available from [Accessed 24 October 2017].

[3] ibid.

[4] NHS Digital (2016) Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey: Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, England, 2014. [Online] Available here: [Accessed 2 December 2016].

[5] ibid.

[6] ibid.

[7] ibid.

[8] Strang, J., Drummond, C., McNeill, A., Lader, M. and Marsden, J.,  (2014) Addictions, dependence and substance abuse. In: Davies, S Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2013: Public Mental Health priorities: investing in the evidence. [Online] Available from  [Accessed 19 November 2014].

[9] NHS Digital (2017) Statistics on Alcohol: England, 2016. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 24 October 2017]

Prescription items give a measure of how often a prescriber has decided to write a prescription for the treatment of alcohol dependence. This is not a measure of the volume of drugs prescribed, as different practices may prescribe for different lengths of treatment.

[10] NHS Digital (2017) Statistics on Alcohol:England, 2017. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 2 December 2016]

[11] Public Health England (May 2017), Local Alcohol Profiles for England May 2016 update. Available here: [Online]. [Accessed 24 October 2017].

[12] ibid

[13] ibid

[14] ibid

[15] ibid

[16] Public Health England Local Alcohol Profiles for England. June 2016 update. [Online] Available from [Accessed 21 August 2017].

[17] ibid

[18] Office of National Statistics (2017) Alcohol-related deaths in the UK, registered in 2015 [Online] Available from: [Accessed 10 March 2017].

[19] ibid

[20] ibid

[21] ibid

[22] ONS (2017) Alcohol-related deaths in the UK, registered in 2015 [Online] Available from:

[23] ibid

[24]Figures extracted from: Public Health England, Liver Disease Profiles [Online]. Available from:  [Accessed 21 August 2017]

[25] Institute of Alcohol Studies, (2016) Estimates of the cost of alcohol Fact Sheet. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 21 August 2017].

[26] Full Fact (2012) Does Britain lose £21 billion to alcohol abuse each year? [Online] Available from [Accessed 25 November 2014]