This week the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released its “General Lifestyle Survey Overview” – and it’s a fascinating statistical look at the way we live today. Fairly wide in scope, the survey covers health-related topics such as smoking and drinking habits, and also takes in social themes such as marriage and cohabitation, plus social trends in pension schemes.

The ONS website highlights some of the more salient points uncovered by the survey:

  • Over half (54 per cent) of adults drank alcohol at least once a week
  • Adults aged 45 and over were three times as likely as those aged under 45 to drink almost every day
  • Average weekly alcohol consumption decreased from 14.3 units per adult in 2005 to 11.5 units per adult in 2010
  • One in six adults drank heavily on at least one day in the week before interview

The drinking pattern among the over 45s is the one that has been given the most attention in the press – and rightly so. According to the ONS:

4 per cent of the 16 to 44 age group and 13 per cent of the 45 and over age group consumed alcohol almost every day

Which means that, despite obvious concerns about cut-price city-centre binge-drinking (and its attendant footage of young people passed out on park benches or holding on to walls for balance) there are (up til now anyway) off-the-radar drinking behaviours that could be a cause for concern.

Overall, though, it very much looks as if the UK is beginning to move in the right direction in terms of alcohol consumption:

Obviously there will be certain demographic groups such as the over 45s as mentioned above whose drinking frequency is higher than the recommended – but a decrease in drinking overall has to be a good sign.

Maybe the easy access to health information across the internet from the newspapers online, plus health services providers such as the NHS and health blogs – and of course alcohol concern – means that people are more informed and able to make better choices as time goes on.

Full survey is available for download here.

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