A third of UK adults drink alcohol too much, just 6% want to cut down

alcohol-related-deaths, alcohol-harm

One third (31%) of UK adults drink alcohol too much and are exceeding weekly alcohol guidelines, according to data from Britain’s Healthiest Workplace*, developed by VitalityHealth and delivered in partnership with the University of Cambridge, RAND Europe and Mercer. Britain’s Healthiest Workplace studies both exposure to health risks, and people’s motivation to make changes to their health.

  • Britain’s Healthiest Workplace investigates the lifestyle factors people are looking to improve in 2017
  • Exercise and weight the two health factors UK adults are most keen to change.

Drinking habits were shown to differ by age group. The study showed that people over 60 drink most regularly, drinking alcohol on around 10 separate occasions in any given month. This is very different to the drinking habits of young people, (aged between 18 and 30) who drink less regularly, but are more likely to consume more in a single session. On average, those aged between 40 and 60 tend to consume the most alcohol, (approximately 12 units per week on average). The research also found that men drink more than women, both in terms of how regularly they drink, and how much they consume in each session.

Surveying people’s attitudes to alcohol shows that changing this behaviour may be a challenge. Of the 31% who drink alcohol too much and exceeded government health guidelines, 56% were happy with the amount they drink and had no intention of cutting down; a further 38% recognise that they should drink less, but do not intend to in the short term, while only 6% reported being motivated to change.

Attitudes to other health risks, however, are very different. The areas where people appear most motivated are body composition and physical activity. While around 50% were at risk for having an unhealthy BMI, 78% of this group expressed a motivation to change. 41% of people were at risk for not exercising enough, and of this group 69% expressed a motivation to change. Only 12% of those at risk said that they were happy with the amount of exercise they are doing.

50% of people are at risk for following an unhealthy diet, with 34% of this group being motivated to change. Of 11% of respondents who were current smokers, 38% were either motivated to, or actively trying to, stop smoking.


Lifestyle factor At risk Happy as things are/not interested in changing Understands the issue, but does not intend to change Understands the issue and is motivated to change
Alcohol 31% at risk of exceeding the governments weekly alcohol guidelines of no more than 14 units per week 56% are happy with the amount they drink 38% know they should drink less but do not intend to cut down 6% would like to cut down the amount they drink
Body composition 51% at risk of being outside the healthy BMI range of 18.5 and 24.9 17% are happy with their weight 5% would like to change their weight, but not right now 78% would like to change their weight
Physical activity 41% at risk of not reachingthe government recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week 12% are happy with the amount of exercise they do 19% feel they should be doing more exercise, but do not intend to change their lifestyle right now 69% would like to do more exercise
Nutrition 50% at risk of not eating a healthy diet (5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day). 40% are happy with their diet 26% feel their diet is not good, but do not currently intend to change 34% would like to change their diet
Smoking 11% at risk due to being a current smoker. 15% do not intent to stop smoking 48% would like to stop smoking but not right now 38% are either actively trying to stop, or are motivated to stop smoking.


Shaun Subel, Strategy Director at VitalityHealth, said:

“The new year is often associated with resolutions and provides people with a great opportunity to make changes to their lifestyle after the excesses of the festive season. However, our findings show that people’s lifestyle choices are complex and changing them can sometimes pose a challenge. Often people do not recognise that their lifestyle is potentially damaging to their health, or are put off making changes until a future date, prioritising short term gratification over the long-term health impact.

“We’d encourage everyone to make sure they are aware of government health guidelines and motivate themselves to make positive changes to their lifestyle today, which can lead to significant health improvements in both the short and long-term.”



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