According to Alcohol Concern, more than 9 million people in the UK drink more than the recommended daily limit, and drink-related conditions account for around 10% of the UK burden of disease and health. It may surprise you to learn, then, that drinking has actually been on the decline since 2005, with the proportion of men drinking regularly during the week falling from 72% to 64%, and weekly drinking by women falling from 57% to 52%.
Well, in many was that depends on who you are and on where you're getting your information. According to most statistics, drinking habits differ from generation to generation, and the rate of drinking is actually highest among older people. Just 1% of the 16 to 25 age group drink every day during the week, compared to 4% of the 25 to 44 age group, 9% of the 25 to 64 age group and 13% of people over 65.
In both drinking and smoking there has been consistent decline, with the number of regular smokers halving over the last 45 years and the number of regular drinkers falling steadily over the last decade. Although it is often difficult to offer definitive reasons for either decline, there does seem to be at least one common factor – namely the emergence of research studying the negative effects of each – that accompanied the beginning of the decline.
So the question is, have the campaigns and slogans and adverts urging responsible drinking resulted in a more cautious society? In the same way that medical information began to discourage smokers in the 60s, it could be that the rise in drink awareness campaigning - which began in the early 90s - is having the same effect on the younger generation of drinkers. It would reflect the statistics to suggest that, on average, younger generations are drinking less than their parents and grandparents, who would have formed their drinking habits before the campaigning started in earnest.
To say that drinking is going the same way as smoking is probably a little too premature. Although there certainly is evidence that signals a decline, to call it the end of drinking - or the end of smoking, in fact - would be reckless. There are still huge numbers of people, even if they are now a minority, who take part in each, and as well as that, evidence surrounding drinking is varied, and many scientists and nutritionists argue that drinking in moderation may be a necessary part of upholding a healthy and balanced diet. There could be a question though, about whether the decline will continue. With the younger generation seeming to increasingly turn away from alcohol, will there be a time in the not-so-distant future when advertisements switch to spreading the word about the health benefits of an occasional glass of wine or will drinking pass out of existence altogether?