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WMIC Issue 21: Drinking habits – Tea-totalers, drinkers, bingers and hospital admissions

Published: Tuesday, 8th May 2018

New reports find that while West Midlanders are among the least likely to drink, the rate of hospital admissions due to alcohol is among the highest. West Midlands in Context takes a look.


Last week, the National Office of Statistics (ONS) and NHS digital published related reports on alcohol consumption. Their findings make interesting reading.

Based on their Options and Lifestyle Survey, the ONS findings might challenge some of the views that people hold about drinking habits. Asked about how they behaved the week before the survey, the results show for example, that young people aged between 16 to 24 years old were less likely to drink compared to other age groups - although they were most likely to binge-drink.

Looking at the results by occupation and income it also seems that people in managerial and professional jobs and the highest earners were the most likely to have had a drink in the previous week, compared to those in “routine and manual” and “intermediate” occupations.

One of the more interesting findings is that teetotalism had increased in the 16 to 44 age bracket since 2005, but decreased for the 65 and over age group. The change in this older age group is apparently caused by the reduction in women reporting to be teetotal. That said, while the proportion of women drinking in some age groups might have increased, men are still more likely to drink than women, with around 62% of men reporting having drunk in the previous week compared to 52.5% for women. Overall, just over 20% of respondents said they did not drink alcohol at all.

Drinking in the West Midlands

Although the ONS found “similar proportions” of adults who said they had not had a drink in the previous week across the English regions, they also noted that the West Midlands had one of the lowest rates of drinking. Alongside the North East and London, the region’s rate was around 55% compared to 61% for South West, the South East and Yorkshire and Humber, where the rates were the highest. The England average was marginally under 58%.

Looking at binge-drinking, the region also faired fairly well. With the England average at 26.2%, the West Midlands had the third lowest rate behind the East of England and the South East, with a figure of 23.7%. This compares to the North West, where a third of respondents reported binge-drinking the previous week.

Health impacts

Alongside the ONS report, the NHS published their alcohol statistics for England and it is worth noting some of the headline findings. For example, it seems that there were some 337,000 hospital admissions in 2016/17 that were primarily due to alcohol consumption and around 5,500 alcohol-specific deaths in 2016, a 4% increase on the year before.

Interestingly, while the ONS survey showed relatively low rates of drinking in the West Midlands, the NHS data shows the region to have one of the higher rates of alcohol-specific deaths. Similarly, while the ONS survey suggested those on higher incomes are more likely to drink, the NHS data shows alcohol-specific deaths to be highest in the most deprived areas and lowest in the least.

As would be expected, there is a wealth of other alcohol related information in this report and while the report has maps broadly showing how rates differ between council areas, local data on a number of the topics can be found in tables linked to the report.



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