The average weekly tally of alcohol for men and women has fallen in every age group, reveal new figures published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in its General Lifestyle Survey. But the middle-aged (45+) are three times as likely as their younger peers to knock back alcohol almost every day, the data show.
The ONS figures for 2010 show that average weekly consumption fell from 14.3 units per adult in 2005 to 11.4 units in 2010. Among men, this fell from just under 20 weekly units to just under 16; the corresponding figures among women were 9.4, falling to 7.6 weekly units in 2010.
Among 16 to 24 year old women, whose drinking habits have prompted concern, average weekly alcohol consumption fell from 13.2 units in 2005 to 8.4 in 2010.
But over half (54%) of adults drank at least once a week, and one in six adults drank heavily at least one day in the week before they were interviewed for the survey, although the overall proportions of men drinking more than 50 weekly units has fallen from 9% to 6%, while the proportions of women drinking 35 units a week has fallen from 5% to 3%.
But men between the ages of 45 and 64 are still drinking more than anyone else, the figures show. In 2005 they knocked back an average of just under 23 units a week compared with just under 18 in 2010. This compares with 14.1 among 16 to 24 year olds and 16.6 in 25 to 44 year olds.
Older women are consuming around half the weekly units of their male peers, but those aged between 45 and 64 are still drinking more than women in other age groups, clocking up an average of 8.8 units a week.
Older adults are also more likely to drink every day, the figures showed. A fifth of men aged 65+ drank daily compared with just 3% of their peers aged 16 to 24. Similarly, 12% of women in the 65+ age bracket drank every day compared with just 1% of 16 to 24 year old women.
And average weekly consumption in 2010 was highest among the better educated and well off. Those in managerial professional jobs averaged 12.9 units a week compared with 10.5 among those in manual worker households.
This difference was particularly noticeable for women, where the managerial and professional groups averaged 9.2 weekly units compared with 6.2 for those with routine and manual jobs.