Getting a Pay Rise may be Bad for your Health. Recently released statistics of drinking habits in the U.K. reveal several interesting trends about adult alcohol consumption and how habits have changed since 2005 among those aged 16 and over. According to theMay 2018 report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), salary, age, location and occupation can provide a tell about how likely a person is to drink alcoholic beverages.
Young People Less Likely To Drink
One surprising find from the surveys is that abstinence from alcohol has been increasing in popularity among younger Brits, those aged 16-24. Young adults are also only about 48% likely to drink regularly, which makes them the age group with the lowest alcohol consumption. Middle-aged adults, 45-64 years old, are most likely to drink, coming in at about 65%.
Professionals and Executives Most Likely to Drink
About 70% of people in professional and managerial occupations roles, such as doctors, nurses, teachers, architects and lawyers, report having at least one drink within the week before taking the survey. One major discovery from this report is that adults in these high-level jobs are about 20% more likely to drink than people filling more routine roles – those practicing general labour or in low-demanding office jobs. Only 50%, approximately, of routine and manual workers report recent drinking.
Getting a Pay Rise May be Bad for your Health
There is also a near-linear correlation between salary and alcohol consumption. The more people earn, the more they are likely to enjoy an alcoholic beverage on a regular basis. Drinking at least once a week is common amongst almost 80% of adults who earn over £40,000 annually. This is a drastic jump from the 46% who bring home £10,000 or less.
The report also suggests that these factors may be interlinked. For example, higher-level positions generally have higher salaries. A lawyer’s salary probably surpasses that of a receptionist. The older the person gets, the more likely they are to climb the corporate ladder and therefore earn a larger salary.
Analysing Drinking Trends
Various reasons for these trends can be hypothesised. Alcohol consumption may be higher among professionals and those in managerial sectors because these jobs are more demanding. Higher salary may privilege one to having extra cash to spend on liquor.
However, other socio-economic factors related to occupation and income, such as living situation resulting from the two, may also play into determining a person’s drinking lifestyle.
According to the Executive Rehab Guide, ran by Castle Craig Hospital, addiction among professionals is not a new trend. Stress comes with the job in many professional and high-ranking occupations. Although most people who occupy these positions enjoy the excitement that comes with the territory, the possibility of “burnout” always exists. This is when some professionals choose to turn to alcohol or drugs as a method of self-medication. In certain jobs, it is also common to have drinks over lunch with colleagues or clients.
The correlation between increased earnings and likeliness to drink can be used as an argument by advocates for Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) for alcohol. Just recently, in May 2018, the Scottish government established a MUP policy, and claims Scotland to be the first country in the world to do so although other countries, such as Canada, USA and Russia, already implement some form of minimum pricing on alcohol. Now, other parts of the U.K., including England, Ireland and Wales are also working on following the lead.
Drinking Habits in Men vs. Women
There is a 10% difference between how many men drink alcohol and how many women do. About 62% of men reported drinking at least once in the past week, while only about 52% of women could say the same.
This factor can also explain the previous trends, because according to a different ONS report on the gender pay gap, women occupy only 45% of professional occupations and are more likely to work in less-demanding jobs, such as administrative positions.
Women are also paid less than on average across all job sectors, by approximately 11%. Hence, the correlation between pay or occupation and drinking may be skewed due to gender differences.
One positive point is that overall binge-drinking rates have fallen from 18.8% to 15.5% since 2005. The ONS defines “binge drinking” as consuming more than 6 units for women, or more than 8 units for men in one day. Heavy alcohol consumption is still higher among men (28.7%) than women (25.6%). The divide is even greater between men and women over 65, where about 15% of men confess to binge drinking. That number is approximately cut in half for women 65+ of age.
While men drink more than women on average, women in the 25-44 age group are more likely to binge drink than men of the same age. The percent of women in this age group who admit to binge drinking is about 3.4% higher than men.
While the younger adults are less likely to consume alcohol regularly compared to other age groups, they are more likely to binge-drink when they do. The 65+ age group is least likely to. Middle-aged adults, however, are the group determined most-likely-to-drink regularly or daily.
According to a study by the University of Southampton, binge drinking may actually not be as bad as previously thought. Research shows that regular or daily alcohol use does more health-related damage than occasional bingeing.
Alcohol and Abstinence
One positive find of the ONS report shows that more adults (20.4%) practiced abstinence from alcohol in 2017 compared to only 18.8% in 2005. Leading this trend are the 16-24 and 25-44 age groups, showing approximately a 4 and 5% increase, respectively, in teetotaling since 2005.
The bad news is that abstinence from alcohol has fallen by about 5% since 2005 in older adults, those 65 and over. Nevertheless, they still remain as the age group with the highest rate of abstinence.
What do the Experts Say?
By therapist Chris Burn, a therapist at Castle Craig Hospital in Scotland, finds these statistics quite promising, adding that “The report appears to show that the younger generations are starting to drink more responsibly than their elders. This is an encouraging trend for Britain’s long-term health prospects. However, the figures are still too high overall.”
Altogether, the decrease in overall drinking habits and binge drinking, plus an increase in adults teetotaling spells good news and this is evident in a recent report from the NHS. In 2016 and 2017, alcohol-related hospital admissions dropped on percent. However, the number still remains high, estimated to be 337,000. Shockingly, this number is 17% more than 2006 and 2007.
Alcohol has also been responsible for 5,507 deaths in 2016, 4% more than the previous year. Since 2006, fatalities linked to alcohol use have jumped to 11%.
Recognising social trends can help one evaluate personal drinking patterns and level of consumption. Keeping oneself in check can be helpful in preventing addiction. The U.K.’s Chief Medical Officers suggest drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol to minimise risks to one’s health and wellbeing. Regular drinkers are also advised to divide the 14 units over a period of at least three days.
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | February 25, 2020