National Surveys Comparison 1995 & 2000
Ruth Habgood, Sally Casswell, Megan Pledger and Krishna Bhatta,  
Alcohol & Public Health Research Unit, November 2001


Half of the drinkers surveyed (50%) said they were drinking the same amount as a year ago, and this did not change between 1995 and 2000. One third (33%) were drinking less or had stopped and just less than one fifth (17%) were drinking more, and again these proportions were similar in both years.[1] 
Changes in drinking might be due to changes in how often people drink or in the quantities they consume, or both of these. About half of those drinking less said they were both drinking less frequently and drinking smaller quantities. The proportions of those who said this, did not change between 1995 and 2000 for women or men. One third said they were drinking less frequently (with no change in quantity) and about one in eight women and one in five men were drinking smaller quantities (with no change in frequency). These proportions had not changed from 1995 to 2000. About half of those drinking more said it was because they were drinking more often and a third that they were drinking both more often, and larger quantities. There were no changes from 1995 to 2000.

Reasons for Drinking Less

People who said they were now drinking less, compared with a year ago, chose from a list of possible reasons for this change. For both men and women, concerns about drinking and driving, and concerns about health and physical fitness were mentioned most often in both 1995 and 2000 (Table 2). Concerns about drinking and driving were mentioned most often by men and women over 18 and there was little change in the proportions who felt this way between 1995 and 2000. There were few changes in any of the reasons given, from 1995 to 2000. However, more men aged 18-29 cited pressure to drink less from those serving drinks as a reason for drinking less in 2000 (from 3% to 8%). Fewer men aged 30-65 were concerned about spending too much on alcohol (from 26% in 1995 to 19% in 2000) and fewer women of the same age were concerned about the effects of alcohol on their health (56% to 46%).  
Table 2
Reasons for drinking less



The reasons for drinking more that were mentioned most often in both 1995 and 2000 were that alcohol was being served at more of the social occasions respondents were attending and because they had more money available to spend on alcohol (Table 3).
There were marked increases in the proportions of men aged 18-29 citing the availability of wine in supermarkets as a reason for drinking more,[2] bringing the percentage citing this up to the same level as the women of the same age. In each survey about one in three of the men in this age group and between one in four and one in five of the women mentioned reasons relating to increased availability of alcohol: the range of places selling takeaway alcohol making it easier to buy, takeaway alcohol being more available when supplies run out, and longer opening hours of places selling alcohol. There was also a significant increase in women aged 18-29 citing ‘more places serving alcohol are open longer’ as a reason.
Women aged 14-17 and males aged 18-29 were much less likely to give as a reason for drinking more ‘alcohol is now served at more of the social occasions I attend’ – a decrease from 78% to 52% for the women and from 54% to 39% for the men. A smaller decrease in citing this reason was also found for drinkers of all ages.
There has been an increase in the proportion of young men aged 14-17 who agreed that it was safe for their health to drink a certain number of drinks. 

[1] Responses to these questions remain stable over time regardless of changes in self reported consumption elsewhere in the survey (Casswell and Bhatta, 2001).  These data are probably most useful in illustrating changes in how people explain their drinking.
[2] Unfortunately being able to buy beer in supermarkets was not added to the 2000 survey as a reason for drinking more.
Table 3
Reasons for drinking more



Eleven percent of drinkers reported they were currently drinking more than they felt happy with and this level had not changed from 1995, although there was a decrease in the proportion of 20-29 year olds who felt this way. 
More men than women felt they were drinking too much in 2000 (12% compared with 10%) and these proportions had not changed between 1995 and 2000. There had been a decrease however, in the proportion of men who felt they were drinking too much (from 15% to 12%) and a marked decrease among the 20-24 and 25-29 year old men (from 28% to 19% and from 20% to 9% respectively). 


Drinkers were asked to respond to a number of attitude statements relating to alcohol. Some of these had been asked about in 1995 and some were added for the first time in 2000.
Younger people’s drinking
In 2000 a number of items were added to gauge attitudes towards younger people’s drinking. A majority (86%) agreed that drinking by teenagers was a problem in their community and 51% felt that the laws on selling alcohol were not being enforced enough. Not surprisingly there were significant differences between those aged 14-17 and the older respondents. Younger respondents, both male and female, expressed less concern than older groups regarding teenage drinking and more of them felt that the laws were being enforced enough. Fifty percent of all the respondents felt that teenagers appreciated having their parents set limits about their drinking. Males aged 14-17 years were more likely than other younger people, both men and women under 30, to agree that limits were appreciated (52% compared with 35-40%).
Alcohol advertising
Respondents were asked about their reactions to television advertising. In 1995 41% percent agreed that they really enjoyed some of the TV advertisements used to sell alcohol and 41% disagreed. In 2000 there had been an increase in those who did not feel strongly one way or another, agreement had dropped to 37% and disagreement had also dropped to 37%. 
Although men under 30 were the most likely to agree that they really enjoyed TV advertisements to sell alcohol, fewer aged 18-29 agreed in 2000 (55%) than in 1995 (63%). Fewer women over 18 disagreed and fewer under 17 agreed. Disagreement decreased from 32% in 1995 to 25% in 2000 for 18-29 year old women and from 52% to 46% for women aged 30-65. Agreement decreased from 50% to 39% for 14-17 year old women. 
Access to alcohol
Another attitude item dealt with availability of alcohol. This was a statement about takeaway alcohol being easy to buy when the respondent wanted it. More people agreed (85%, up from 82%) and fewer people disagreed (8%, down from 14%) that takeaway alcohol was easy to buy in 2000 compared with 1995. Those over 18 were less likely to disagree and those aged over 30 were more likely to agree in 2000. However, there was a different picture among males under 18 years who were much less likely to agree that it was easy to buy takeaway alcohol (from 58% in 2000 to 34% in 1995) and more likely to disagree (37% to 49%). There were no changes among the women under 18 years. 
Economics of alcohol use
Two items were concerned with the economics of alcohol use. There was a marked drop between 1995 and 2000 in those agreeing with a statement suggesting that alcohol is expensive (from 77% to 67%). There was also a decrease in the proportion of drinkers who agreed that they needed to be careful about how much they were spending on alcohol in 2000 (from 52% to 48%).
Alcohol and health
Respondents were also asked if they thought that, overall, alcohol was good for their health. While there was no change in those agreeing that this was the case (about one in three respondents), fewer among the 14-17 year olds and among those over 30 disagreed. Males were also less likely to disagree in 2000 (48%) compared with 1995 (54%). There was also a decrease among women over 30 who disagreed (48% to 44%). Women under 30 showed a different trend with fewer agreeing that alcohol was good for their health in 2000 (a decrease from 25% to 17%). 
There was no change in those agreeing that people who drink and drive are likely to get caught (58%), but there was a decrease among both men (from 37% to 33%) and women (from 40% to 36%) in those who disagreed. There was also a decrease in those who disagreed among those aged 18-29 (from 39% to 31%) and women aged 14-17 (from 22% to 17%).
Attitudes to beverages
Respondents were also asked if different beverages were suitable for most times of the day. In general, there was a more liberal sentiment expressed in 2000 than in 1995. Wine was the beverage showing greatest change with an increase in the proportions of both men (from 27% to 32%) and women (from 28% to 31%) agreeing wine was suitable for most times of the day and a decrease in those disagreeing, from 64% to 57% for men and from 66% to 60% for women. 
Beer showed a mixed picture. Fewer men over thirty agreed it was a suitable drink for most times of the day (from 36% to 33%) but fewer younger people and younger women disagreed that it was.  This was a decrease from 62% to 53% for those under 18 and from 69% to 59% for 18-29 year old women. 
Spirits showed fewer changes with only men aged 18-29 relaxing their attitudes, a decrease from 90% to 83% in those disagreeing that spirits were suitable for most times of the day. 
Attitudes to intoxication
The belief that ‘it’s OK to get drunk now and again’ also showed changes in a liberal direction. More women of all ages agreed and fewer women disagreed in 2000 than in 1995. Disagreement decreased among women aged 18-29 (from 26% to 19%) and for those aged 30-65. Agreement also increased in these age groups from 66% to 74% and from 32-39% respectively. Men showed less change except for males aged 14-15 who showed similar patterns to women. They were less likely to disagree (32% to 19%) and more likely to agree (65% to 75%) in 2000 than in 1995.

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