More girls and young women now admit to binge drinking than men, despite a drop in overall rates of alcohol consumption in the UK, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The drop in drinking levels is perhaps to be expected, considering how obsessed many of us are with health and wellness and the rise of #fitspo, but the gender disparity is pretty surprising.
Among 16-24 year-olds, girls and women are more likely to binge drink regularly than men, with 40.5% admitting to having done so in the past week, up 3% on last year. Just 34.4% of men admitted to doing the same – a 13% drop on last year.
This makes the gap between genders the biggest since current research began. The last time young women were more likely to binge drink than young men was in 2009.
“Binge drinking” is defined as eight units a day for men – about four pints of normal strength beer or three quarters of a bottle of wine; and six units for women – equivalent to three pints of beer or two large glasses of wine. The government recommends people avoid drinking more than 14 units a week, spread over three days or more.
The drinks industry has recently amped up its marketing aimed at young women as their disposable income has increased, which experts said could account for the latest figures.
“This explains the rise in recent years of fruit-based beers and ciders and drinks marketed as being low-calorie,” Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of Alcohol Health Alliance UK, told The Times. “In addition, wine and vodka, drinks preferred by women, have come down in price in real terms in recent years.”
The figures suggest that while young people are less likely to drink than any other age group, when they do drink, they tend to drink more on their heaviest drinking day than other age groups.
Overall, the poll of nearly 8,000 Britons showed a slight fall in alcohol consumption, with just under 60% saying they had drunk alcohol in the previous week – the lowest rate since the survey began in 2005, when the rate was 64.2%.
The number of teetotallers in the UK is also on the rise. Just over a fifth (20.9%) said they didn't drink alcohol at all – a 2% rise since 2005 – which equates to about 10.6 million people. Shirley Temples all round, then.