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.

Alcohol-related crime

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 (40% of all violent crime). This has fallen from 53% in 2013/14.1

15% of violent incidents occurred in or around a pub or club.2 

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).3

Of men in England in 2014, harmful, mildly dependent, and probably dependent drinking was most common among 25 to 34 year olds (6.6%).4 For women, this level of problem drinking was most frequent among those aged 16 – 24.5 In England, drinking at hazardous levels has declined over the past 15 years, down from 36.8% in 2000 to 27.9% in 2014.6

Only 6% of people with alcohol dependence access treatment each year.7

In 2016 in England 188,331 prescription items were given (in a primary care setting or NHS hospital), for the treatment of alcohol dependency.8 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.

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

In 2016/17, there were an estimated 1,135,709 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.10 

Men were more likely to be admitted to hospital with alcohol related diseases, injuries and conditions than women (65% vs 35% of admissions).11

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

In 2016/17, there were an estimated 337,113 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.12

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.13

People admitted to hospital

Between 2014/15 and 2016/17, there were 11,987 alcohol-specific hospital admissions for under 18s in England - that’s a crude rate of 34.2 per 100,000 population. This represents a 3.2% decrease from 2013/14 and 2015/16. (Alcohol-specific admissions – under 18 year olds).14

In 2016/17, there were 207,823 male and 129,290 female alcohol-related hospital admissions in England. Combined, that is 337,113 admissions. (Alcohol-specific admission – males and females).15

Alcohol-specific deaths

In 2016, there were 7,327 alcohol-specific deaths in the UK, a small increase since 2015 (7,006) and 2014 (7,002).16 67% of alcohol-specific deaths in 2016 were male.17

The 2016 the age-standardised rate of 11.7 alcohol-specific deaths per 100,000 people is higher than 2001 (10.6), but lower than the peak in 2008 (12.7 deaths per 100,000 people)18. However, as can be seen in the figure below there was from a rate of 10.6 deaths per 100,000 people in 2001 a clear increasing trend to 12.7 deaths per 100,000 people at the peak in 2008.19

Figure 4 shows the number of alcohol-specific deaths and age standardised alcohol-specific deaths per 100,000 per population, UK, 2001 to 2016.20

In 2016, the age-specific alcohol-specific death rate was highest among males aged 60-64 (40.3 deaths per 100,000) and among females aged 55 to 59 years (19.1 deaths per 100,000).21

In England, alcohol-specific death rates for men were highest in the North East (21.9 per 100,000). Alcohol-specific death rates were lowest in the East of England (9.9 per 100,000).22

In England, alcohol-specific death rates for women were highest among regions in the North East (10.4 per 100,000) and North West (10.4 per 100,000) and lowest among those in London  (4.6 per 100,000).23

Estimates suggest from 2014-2016 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

Alcohol harm paradox: Is alcohol harm linked to income?

The so-called ‘alcohol paradox’ describes the finding that people in the most socioeconomically deprived neighbourhoods of the UK, despite not reporting to be drinking more, are two to three times as likely to die from an alcohol-related condition than their counterparts living in the most deprived neighbourhoods.25

For further information read our Research Highlight on the Alcohol Harm Paradox.

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.26 Note: the source and methodology of this calculation is unclear and has been challenged.27

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] ONS (2018) Dataset: Nature of crime tables, violence, Table 3.11. [Online] Available from  [Accessed 12 March 2018].

[2] ibid.

[3] NHS Digital (2016) Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey: Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, England, 2014. [Online] Available here: [Accessed 16 March 2018].

[4] ibid.

[5] ibid.

[6] ibid.

[7] 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].

[8] NHS Digital (2017) Statistics on Alcohol: England, 2017. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 16 March 2018]

[9] NHS Digital (2017) Statistics on Alcohol:England, 2017. [Online] Available from: [Accessed 16 March 2018]

[10] Public Health England (February 2018), Local Alcohol Profiles for England February 2018 update. Available here: [Online]. [Accessed 01 March 2018].

[11] ibid

[12] ibid

[13] ibid.

[14] ibid.

[15] ibid.

[16] ONS (2017) Alcohol-specific deaths in the UK: main dataset, Available from:  [Accessed 12 March 2018]

[17] ibid

[18] ibid

[19] ibid

[20] ibid.

[21] ibid.

[22] ibid.

[23] ibid.

[24]Figures extracted from: Public Health England, Liver Disease Profiles [Online]. Available from:  [Accessed 01 March 2018]

[25] Bellis, M. Hughes, K. Nicholla, J. Sheron, N. Gilmore, I. and Jones, L (2016) The alcohol harm paradox: using a national survey to explore how alcohol may disproportionately impact health in deprived individuals. BMC Public Health. 16(1):111. Available at: [Accessed 16 March 2018].

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

[27] Full Fact (2012) Does Britain lose £21 billion to alcohol abuse each year? [Online] Available from [Accessed 16 March 2018]

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