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One in four affluent adults drink above 'lower risk' levels

· 10,000 adults and children surveyed in England to look at health of the nation

Adults in households in the highest income bracket are more likely to drink above the lower risk level3 than households on lowest4 incomes, according to a major new survey published today.

More than a quarter of men (27 per cent) and almost a quarter of women (23 per cent ) in the highest income bracket reported drinking above lower risk levels compared to five per cent of men and 12 per cent of women in the lowest income bracket in 2014.

The findings are reported as part of the Health Survey for England, which is published today by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

The reports look at a wide range of health behaviours and health related areas. They also provide information on trends within core topics such as alcohol consumption, adult obesity and social care.

The survey also found that over a quarter of respondents in the lowest income bracket (27 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women) had not drunk alcohol in the last year. This decreased to five per cent of men and 12 per cent of women in the highest income bracket.

The findings of Health Survey for England 2014 estimate that among the adult population in England in 2014:

Adult alcohol consumption

  • The proportion of adults who reported drinking alcohol5 varied across regions. London had the lowest proportion of drinkers with 77 per cent of men and 67 per cent of women.
  • Regionally, the highest proportion of men who were drinkers was in the South West at 92 per cent. For women the highest proportion of drinkers was in the East of England at 86 per cent.
  • The proportion of men who drank alcohol on five or more days in the last week varied by age increasing from 5 per cent of those aged 16-24 to 29 per cent of those aged 65-74. Among women, 2 per cent of those aged 16-24 drank on five or more days in the last week increasing to 14 per cent of those aged 55-64 and aged 65-74.
  • The age groups with the highest proportions of adults who drank above lower risk levels3 were men aged 65-74 (30 per cent) and women aged 55-64 (22 per cent).
  • The proportion of men that drank more than eight units of alcohol on one day in the previous week dropped from 24 per cent in 2006 to 19 per cent in 2014.
  • The proportion of women who drank more than six units of alcohol on one day in the previous week dropped from 16 per cent in 2006 to 11 per cent in 2014.

Obesity and overweight among adults

  • Overall 65 per cent of men and 58 per cent of women were either overweight or obese6.
  • Similar proportions of men and women were obese (24 per cent of men and 27 per cent of women). However, men were more likely to be overweight than women (41 per cent of men and 31 per cent of women).

Social care for people aged over 65

  • One third (33 per cent) of women and almost a quarter of men (24 per cent) reported needing help with at least one activity of daily living (ADL) 7.

        - Not all of these received the help they needed; overall 13 per cent of women and 11 per cent of men had received help with at least one activity of daily living in the last month.

  • 34 per cent of women and 21 per cent of men reported that they needed help with an activity that was important to living independently (IADLs) 8.

        - Overall 26 per cent of women and 14 per cent of men reported that they had received help with at least one IADL in the last month.

  • Over 80 per cent (82 per cent of men and 85 per cent of women) that reported receiving help with ADLs or IADLs had received this kind of help for a year or more.

Responsible statistician Alison Neave said:

"Increasing awareness of the risks associated with drinking alcohol makes the data about the patterns of alcohol consumption useful to health professionals and policy makers.

"The fact that adults in households with a higher level of income are drinking more alcohol units than the less affluent people surveyed shows the variation that exists and may help target public health messages.

"The Health Survey for England also provides us with valuable information that enables us to look in depth at health and wellbeing topics that effect the population in England."

Read the report covering these topics here: http://www.hscic.gov.uk/pubs/hse2014.

Key England statistics about health measures and behaviours for adults and children from 2014 and many earlier years are at www.hscic.gov.uk/pubs/hse2014trend.

ENDS

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) was established on April 1 2013 as an Executive Non Departmental Public Body (ENDPB). It is England's trusted data source, delivering high quality information and IT systems to drive better patient services, care and outcomes. Its work includes publishing more than 260 statistical publications annually; providing a range of specialist data services; managing informatics projects and programmes and developing and assuring national systems against appropriate contractual, clinical safety and information standards.
  2. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.
  3. The NHS advises that men should not regularly drink more than three to four units of alcohol per day, and women should not regularly drink more than two to three units of alcohol per day.
    'Regularly' is defined as drinking this amount every day or most days of the week.  Drinking at these levels is defined as 'lower risk'. Adults who regularly drink more than these amounts are considered to be at 'increasing risk' or increasing-risk drinkers. Men who regularly drink more than eight units a day (or 50 units a week) and women who regularly drink more than six units a day (or 35 units a week) are considered to be at particular risk of harm, and are described as 'higher-risk' drinkers. See http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/alcohol/Pages/Effectsofalcohol.aspx . In this press notice, drinking above lower risk levels means on average men drinking over 21 units a week and women drinking over 14 units a week. One unit of alcohol is 10ml by volume of pure alcohol.
  4. Income brackets are defined as equivalised household income quintiles. Household income is collected and adjusted to take account of the number of persons in the household. All individuals in each household were allocated to the equivalised household income quintile to which their household had been allocated. The highest bracket is the highest quintile i.e. the highest 20 per cent. The lowest income bracket is the lowest quintile i.e. the lowest 20 per cent. See section 8.5.3 in Methods volume of the 2014 report for more details.
  5. Respondents were asked if they "ever drink alcohol nowadays" and "do you have an alcoholic drink very occasionally, perhaps for medicinal purposes or on special occasions like Christmas and New Year?". Those who answered yes to one of these questions were classified as people who drink alcohol.
  6. BMI is defined as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in metres. Adult participants can be classified into the following BMI groups:
    • BMI (kg/m2) Description
    • Under 18.5 Underweight
    • 18.5 to less than 25 Normal
    • 25 to less than 30 Overweight
    • 30 and over Obese
    A further category, 40kg/m2 and over, representing those morbidly obese, is also shown within the HSE trend tables.
  7. The need for and receipt of social care was measured using a number of Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs). ADLs are activities relating to personal care and mobility about the home that are basic to daily living and include: having a bath or a shower; using the toilet; getting up and down stairs; getting around indoors; dressing or undressing; getting in and out of bed; washing face and hands; eating, including cutting up food; and taking medicine.
  8. Instrumental Activities of Daily Living are activities which, while not fundamental to functioning, are important aspects of living independently. They include: doing routine housework or laundry; shopping for food; getting out of the house; doing paperwork or paying bills.
  9. For media enquiries please contact media@hscic.gov.uk or 0300 30 33 888.
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