Consumers drank on average five bottles of wine fewer last year as health concerns and the recession combined to bring biggest drop in alcohol consumption since records began.
There were 821 million fewer pints of beer drunk in 2008 compared with 2009, according to the British Beer and Pub Association Photo: ALAMY
The average person drank the equivalent of 89 bottles of wine during the year, down from more than 94 bottles, according to new statistics.
It was the largest drop in alcohol consumed since 1948, as health concerns and the recession encouraged consumers to cut back.
This 6 per cent fall in alcohol consumption is the largest annual drop since records began in 1948, when the British Beer and Pub Association started collecting figures. The figures include all alcohol sales, both from supermarkets and at pubs.
It is the fourth annual decline in the last five years, with the average person consuming the equivalent of 8.4 litres of pure alcohol, down from 8.9 litres.
The data, compiled from Government tax receipts, back up Office for National Statistics figures published earlier this year, which suggested that after many years of people drinking less at pubs, they had also started to cut back at home for the first time.
The statistics come despite mounting concern about binge drinking and many town centres blighted by late-night pubs and bars. The Treasury is currently undertaking a consultation into whether the Government should introduce minimum pricing for alcohol – a move that would put up the price of many basic supermarket beers in a bid to stop binge drinking. Yesterday, the Scottish Government proposed a minimum price of 45p per unit of alcohol.
Brigid Simmonds, the chief executive of the BBPA, said: “These figures will confound many pundits, as yet again they confirm that as a nation, we are not drinking more. Those who suggest otherwise need to focus on the hard facts.” The trade body said that above-inflation duty rises, pushing up the average pint of lager to £2.95, meant that many people could no longer afford to regularly visit the pub and was one of the key reasons why people were drinking less.
Don Shenker, the chief executive of Alcohol Concern, the charity, said the figures were not firm enough proof that the majority of people had learnt to drink in greater moderation.
“There well may be a percentage of people who are drinking less because they are aware of the health harms of alcohol, but most are probably cutting back because they are choosing to spend their finite resources on other luxuries,” he said.
Figures from the BBPA demonstrate that alcohol consumption has closely tracked the country’s economic growth, with it doubling since World War II, with dips during the mid-1970s recession, the early-1980s recession as well as during the early 1990s.
However, the BBPA and alcohol companies point out that the current fall in drinking started before the latest recession took hold. They argue that while binge drinking may be a problem, and possibly a worsening problem among a minority of people, the majority of consumers had learnt to drink sensibly.
Earlier this week the North West Public Health Observatory published figures which indicated that two people were admitted to hospital every minute because of an alcohol-related injury or illness.
The figures showed that there were 954,469 alcohol-related admissions in England in the year ending March 2009, a rise of 9.5 per cent on 2007/08.
By Harry Wallop, Consumer Affairs Editor
Published: 7:00AM BST 03 Sep 2010
Source: The Telegraph