Social and personal problems related to alcohol
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).1
Of men in England in 2014, harmful, mildly dependent, and probably dependent drinking was most common among 25 to 34 year olds (6.6%).2 For women, this level of problem drinking was most frequent among those aged 16 – 24.3 In England, drinking at hazardous levels has declined over the past 15 years, down from 36.8% in 2000 to 27.9% in 2014.4
In 2017 in England 172,997 prescription items were given (in a primary care setting or NHS hospital), for the treatment of alcohol dependency.5 This figure continues the downward trend from 2016 (188,331)—which marked the first decrease in prescriptions since 2004. In the last 10 years, the number of items prescribed has increased by 41%.
In 2017, the Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) of these prescription items to treat alcohol dependency amounted to £4.42 million—a figure lower than 2016 (£4.87 million), but just under double the level ten years ago (2007, £2.48 million).6
In 2016/17, there were an estimated 589,101 dependent drinkers in England;7 81.7% of which were not in treatment.8
In Scotland in 2017/18 there were 8,972 patients dispensed drugs for alcohol dependency, a 3.2% decrease from the previous year (9,270 patients). The gross ingredient cost of drugs for alcohol dependence was approximately £2.1 million in 2017/18, this is a 9.6% decrease compared with 2016/17.9
Alcohol related hospital admissions can be measured using either a broad or a narrow measure. The narrow measure is considered more appropriate when assessing trends over time.
Based on a broad measure of alcohol-related hospital admissions:
In 2017/18, there were an estimated 1,171,253 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 diagnosis10—a figure that is 3% higher than 2016/17, and one that represents 7.2% of all hospital admissions.11
The rate of admissions for alcohol-related conditions has increased from 2,185 (per 100,000) in 2016/17 to 2,224 (per 100,000) in 2017/18.12
Men were more likely to be admitted to hospital with alcohol related diseases, injuries and conditions than women (64.5% vs 35.4% of admissions).13
Based on a narrow measure of alcohol-related hospital admissions:
In 2017/18, there were an estimated 337,867 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.14
This is similar to the level observed in 2016/17 (337,113) and 2015/16 (339,280), but higher than the number of admissions in 2013/14 (333,010).15
People admitted to hospital:
In 2017/18, there were 304,073 alcohol-specific hospital admissions in England; 205,623 male and 98,450 female.16
Between 2015/16 and 2017/18 for under 18s in England, there were 11,610 alcohol-specific hospital admissions—a rate of 32.9 per 100,000 population.17
In 2017, there were 7,697 alcohol-specific deaths in the UK—continuing the upward trend in deaths observed since 2012 (Figure 1).18 5,974 deaths were due to alcoholic liver disease.19 The 2017 age-standardised rate of 12.2 alcohol-specific deaths per 100,000 people is now the highest rate since 2008 when the rate was recorded as 12.7 deaths per 100,000 people.20
In 2017, alcohol-specific deaths were highest among males aged 60-64 years (40.6 deaths per 100,000) and among females aged 55 to 59 years (19.6 deaths per 100,000).21
Approximately two-thirds of alcohol-specific deaths occur among men—a trend that has remained consistent since 2001 (Figure 2).
In 2017 in England, there were 5,843 alcohol-specific deaths; 80% of which were attributable to alcoholic liver disease.22 The rates for men were highest in the North East (20.1 per 100,000), and lowest in London (11.3 per 100,000).23 For women, alcohol-specific death rates were highest in the North East (11.1 per 100,000) and lowest in London (4.6 per 100,000).24
Estimates suggest that in the period between 2015-2017, 48.7% of deaths from liver disease in England were as a result of alcoholic liver disease—the most common cause of death from liver disease.25
There were approximately 464,000 incidents of violent crime in England and Wales in 2016/17 where the victim believed the offender to be under the influence of alcohol, and this represented 40% of all violent crime. The proportion of violent crime linked to alcohol has fallen from 53% in 2013/14 (Figure 3).26 A similar pattern has been observed in the other nations of the UK.
In Scotland, the proportion of violent crimes involving offenders under the influence of alcohol was 42% in 2016/17—a figure that has decreased significantly since 2008/09 (63%) and 2014/15 (56%).27
According to provisional statistics by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, alcohol was a contributory factor in one-fifth of all crimes recorded in 2017/18 and has remained at this level since 2012/13. The proportion of violent crimes involving offenders under the influence of alcohol was 40%—a figure that has fallen since 2012/13 (47%).28
In 2016 in Great Britain, an estimated 9,040 people were injured or killed on roads in incidents where a driver or rider was over the alcohol limit—a 7% increase on the previous year. This represents 5% of all reported road casualties in 2016.29
An estimated 230 people were killed in drink-drive accidents during 2016, up from 200 in 2015.30 This represents 13% of all deaths in reported road accidents.31
The so-called ‘alcohol harm paradox’ describes the finding that people in the most socioeconomically deprived neighbourhoods of the UK, despite not reporting to be drinking more, are likely to experience more alcohol-related health problems than their counterparts living in more affluent neighbourhoods.32
For further information read our Research Highlight on the Alcohol Harm Paradox.
A 2016 Public Health England evidence review estimates the economic burden of alcohol as between 1.3% and 2.7% of annual UK GDP (approximately £21-£52 billion).33 You can access the full report here.
An interactive Alcohol Harm Map has been created to provide local level statistics on a range of alcohol harm measures. You can explore these local level statistics for England and Wales via the data visualisation tool on the Drink Wise Wales website.
Last reviewed: 07/02/2019