British people are consuming about one third more alcohol than previous estimates had calculated, mainly because there are more stronger beers, ciders and wines on the market than there used to be. While people’s drinking habits/frequencies are not really changing, adjustments have to be made regarding the amount of total alcohol content that consumers are drinking.

The ONS (Office for National Statistic) says it is going to update the methods it uses to calculate alcohol consumption in drinking surveys. These surveys will have to reflect increases in the alcoholic strength of many wines, beers and ciders. The ONS also explained that the size of measures people are getting in pubs and bars may also have changed slightly – the traditional 125ml wine glass has made way for larger glasses in many establishments.

The ONS adds that its report, published yesterday, relates mainly to the consumption of wine, but also includes the alcoholic strength estimates of beers, lagers and ciders. Future surveys will include questions related to the size of the wine glass – the presumed alcoholic content of wines, beers, lagers and ciders will also be increased.

Even though the ONS stresses that people’s drinking habits have not changed significantly, the updates will show higher overall weekly alcohol consumption estimates. When these news estimates are applied to the General Household Survey data for 2005, weekly alcohol consumption will go up from 10.8 units to 14.3 units, an increase of approximately one third.

The 2006 General Household Survey and the 2007 ONS Omnibus survey on 22 January 2008 will include the revised updates.

ONS report ‘Estimating alcohol consumption from survey data: updated method of converting volumes to units’
Office for National Statistic

Written by – Christian Nordqvist