The 1990s stereotypical tabloid image of the British drinker as the drunken reveller drinking to excess is now a thing of the past. Indeed, Government statistics highlight that the vast majority of UK drinkers are consuming alcohol responsibly, which is a trend we hope continues.

As the latest Portman Group infographics based on official Government data show, we are drinking less as a country, less often and less to excess, although challenges remain and the industry is committed to working in partnership with Government and other to reach irresponsible and persistent drinkers.

Recorded annual alcohol consumption per head in the UK has fallen 15% since 2004 and we are now drinking less than we did 30 years ago. [1]

Furthermore, when we choose to drink, 79% of adults drink within the Government’s lower-risk guidelines of 14 units. [2]

Overall binge drinking across the UK has also fallen 20% since 2017, with the largest fall occurring amongst younger drinkers, though there has been an increase among older drinkers. [3]

UK drinkers are also taking on board messages from the Government and Drinkaware to drink less often and have more drink-free days.

There has been a 41% drop in the overall number of those drinking on five or more days a week, falling to 10% of the UK population, mostly consisting of the older cohort of drinkers.[4]

The turn towards responsible drinking patterns is being led by young drinkers, part of the so-called ‘Generation Sensible’ cohort of 16-24 year olds.

Amongst this age group, 84% do not exceed Government low-risk drinking guidelines, 99% do not drink on five or more days a week and 23% are teetotal. Whilst this age-group is still the most likely to binge drink, progress is being made with a 28% decline since 2007, especially amongst young men. [5]

Increasing responsible drinking patterns has had a knock-on effect on alcohol related violent crime and anti-social behaviour, which has declined over the last decade. [6]

This is not to say that challenges do not remain. The industry recognises that further efforts need to be made to reach irresponsible and persistent drinkers and is committed to acting in partnership to encourage responsible drinking. This includes encouraging and educating younger drinkers not to drink to excess and older drinkers to drink less often and have more drink-free days.

We at the Portman Group are also committed to playing our part to promote industry best practice and tackle those products which break our Code.


[1] WHO Global Health Observatory

[2] NHS Digital

[3] Office for National Statistics

[4] Office for National Statistics

[5] Office for National Statistics

[6] Office for National StatisticsScottish GovernmentNorthern Ireland Department for Justice