Harmful and probable dependent drinking in adults

The main facts and figures show that:

  • White British people were more likely to drink at levels classed as hazardous, harmful or dependent compared with all other ethnic groups; this was the case for both men and women

  • although it appears that, in all ethnic groups, a higher percentage of men than women drank at harmful or dependent levels, it is not possible to confirm whether this is found with statistical certainty for all groups

Things you need to know

These statistics have been age-standardised so comparisons can be made between ethnic groups as if they had the same age profile (an age profile shows the number of people of different ages within an ethnic group). The percentages presented do not correspond to the actual (unstandardised) percentages of people in each ethnic group who are in each of the risk levels, but to the age-standardised percentages. For information, the actual (unstandardised) figures show 19.7% of people aged 16 and over drank alcohol at hazardous, harmful or dependent levels, 57.5% drank at low risk levels, and 22.8% did not drink alcohol.

Keep in mind that all survey estimates are based on a sample of the population, rather than the whole population. This means there’s a degree of uncertainty which is greater when the number of respondents is small. There are usually fewer respondents from ethnic minority groups due to the make-up of the general population – therefore, the level of uncertainty is higher for these groups.

The commentary for this data only includes reliable, or ‘statistically significant’, findings. Findings are statistically significant when we can be confident that they can be repeated, and are reflective of the total population rather than just the survey sample. Therefore, the commentary focuses on differences between ethnic groups which have been established with statistical certainty. We do not comment on differences between men and women as these have not been tested for statistical certainty.

The ethnic groups presented in this measure are broad, and may include people with very different circumstances and experiences. For example, the Black ethnic group could include recent migrants from Somalia as well as people born in Britain to British parents. You should therefore be careful when making generalisations about the broad ethnic groups presented here.

What the data measures

This data measures the percentage of people aged 16 years and over in different broad ethnic groups in England who are drinking at ‘hazardous’ levels and those who are drinking at ‘harmful or dependent’ levels. The data source is the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) that was conducted in households across England in 2014.

Respondents were assessed using a screening test known as the ‘alcohol use disorders identification test’ (AUDIT). Respondents answered 10 questions relating to the year before the interview, and were given a total ‘AUDIT score’ from 0 to 40. A score of:

  • 0 to 7 indicates a non-drinker or low risk
  • 8 to 15 indicates hazardous drinking (a less serious problem with alcohol where the person might benefit from advice on ways to drink less)
  • 16 to 19 indicates harmful drinking or mild dependence (a more serious problem with alcohol where the person would benefit from professional counselling to reduce alcohol consumption)
  • 20 or more indicates probable dependence and warrants further diagnostic evaluation and referral to a specialist

This data combines these risk levels, focusing on:

  • adults drinking at greater than low risk levels (hazardous, harmful or dependent levels), which corresponds to adults with an AUDIT score of 8 or above
  • adults drinking at harmful or dependent levels, which corresponds to adults with an AUDIT score of 16 or above

Combining the risk levels in this way allows for accurate comparison of levels of drinking between the ethnic groups. You can find the statistics for all levels of alcohol use, including the detailed risk levels, broken down by ethnicity, in the data download.

The ethnic categories used in this data

For this data, the number of people surveyed (the ‘sample size’) was too small to draw any firm conclusions about specific ethnic categories. Therefore, the data is broken down into the following 5 groups:

  • Asian
  • Black
  • White British
  • White Other
  • Other including Mixed

Ethnic groups and how data on ethnicity is collected

Hazardous, harmful or probable dependent drinking by ethnicity and sex

Percentage of people aged 16 years and over drinking at hazardous, harmful or dependent levels by ethnicity and sex

Ethnicity All Men Women
% % %
Asian 3.7 4.7 2.6
Black 7.1 6.6 7.4
White British 22.6 30.8 14.8
White other 14.8 18.4 11.6
Other inc Mixed 9.9 12.9 7.2

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

  • White British adults (16 years and over) were more likely to drink at levels classed as hazardous, harmful or dependent compared with adults from all other ethnic groups

  • 30.8% of White British men drank at hazardous, harmful or dependent levels, compared with 18.4% of men from Other White backgrounds, 6.6% of Black men, 4.7% of Asian men and 12.9% of men from Other or Mixed ethnic backgrounds

  • 14.8% of White British women drank at hazardous, harmful or dependent levels, compared with 11.6% of women from Other White backgrounds, 7.4% of Black women, 7.2% of women from Other and Mixed ethnic backgrounds and 2.6% of Asian women

  • although the data shows differences between men and women’s drinking levels, the numbers of people surveyed was too small to draw firm conclusions

Harmful or probable dependent drinking among adults by ethnicity and sex

Percentage of adults drinking at harmful or dependent levels by ethnicity and sex

Ethnicity All Men Women
% % %
Asian 0.5 1.0 0.0
Black 2.3 3.5 1.4
White British 3.6 5.2 2.0
White other 1.7 1.9 1.6
Other inc Mixed 2.4 3.9 1.1

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • White British adults (16 years and over) were more likely to drink at harmful or dependent levels, compared with adults from all other ethnic groups

  • the largest percentage of men drinking at harmful or dependent levels was observed in the White British ethnic group (5.2% ), and the lowest in the Asian ethnic group (1%)

  • 2.0% of White British women drank at harmful or dependent levels, compared with 1.6% of women from Other White backgrounds and 1.4% of Black women; no Asian women were identified as drinking at this level

  • 2.0% of White British women drank at harmful or dependent levels, compared with 1.6% of women from Other White backgrounds and 1.4% of Black women; no Asian women were identified as drinking at this level

Methodology

Methodology

Each survey involved interviewing a large stratified probability sample of the general population, covering people living in households in England. It doesn’t include those who live in institutional settings (such as prisons or hospitals) or in temporary housing (such as hostels or bed and breakfasts) or those who sleep rough. The full age range was covered, with the youngest participants aged 16 and the oldest over 100. There were 7,546 respondents to the survey.

The questions covered the following topics:

  • alcohol consumption (relating to how often a person drinks, how much they drink, and how often they drink heavily)
  • alcohol-related harm (including feelings of guilt or remorse after drinking, blackouts, alcohol-related injury, and other concerns about alcohol consumption)
  • symptoms of alcohol dependence (including a person’s difficulty in controlling how often or how much they drink, an increase in the importance of drinking to them, and morning drinking)

Initial questions about alcohol consumption were asked face to face by an interviewer. All participants who drank alcohol, even if just occasionally, were then asked to complete the remaining alcohol use questions. These were administered using computer-assisted self-completion interview (CASI), consistent with the approach used on the 2000 and 2007 surveys.

The resulting statistics for problem drinking have been age-standardised. This is because the prevalence of problem drinking is related to age and the age profile (the number of people of different ages within an ethnic group) can differ considerably between ethnic groups. This adjustment allows comparisons to be made between ethnic groups as if they had the same age profile.

If a participant could not take part in a long interview due to a physical or mental health condition, the interviewer recorded information about this on the doorstep. This information may be biased because often, the interviewer spoke to another member of the household.

Socially undesirable or stigmatised feelings and behaviours may be underreported. This is a risk for any study based on self-report data, but this study goes some way to minimising this by collecting particularly sensitive information in a self-completion format.

Some people selected for the survey could not be contacted or refused to take part. The achieved response rate was 57%. Weighting helps take account of those who were selected for the survey but didn’t take part. Weighting is used to adjust the results of a survey to make them representative of the population and improve their accuracy. For example, a survey which contains 25% women and 75% men will not accurately reflect the views of the general population, which we know has an even 50/50 split. Statisticians rebalance or ‘weight’ the survey results to more accurately represent the general population. This helps to make them more reliable. In this specific survey, weighting also helps correct the bias produced by non-respondents. Statistically significant tests have been conducted, using a regression model. If a significant association is found with an independent variable then post hoc tests are used to identify significant differences between individual levels of that variable.

Confidence Intervals Confidence intervals for each ethnic group for the detailed risk levels with AUDIT scores of 8 or above,are available in the ‘download the data’ section.

Confidence intervals provide a measure of the uncertainty associated with survey data. For example, 2.2% of White British people surveyed were drinking at harmful or mild dependence levels (AUDIT score between 16 and 19) in England 2014. This is a reliable estimate of the percentage of people who were drinking at this level. However, because the APMS results are based on a random sample of people aged 16 or older, it is impossible to be 100% certain of the true percentage. It is 95% certain, however, that somewhere between 1.8% and 2.7% of all White British people were drinking at harmful or mild dependence levels. In statistical terms, this is a 95% confidence interval. This means that if 100 random samples were taken, then 95 times out of 100 the estimate would fall in this range (ie, between the upper and lower confidence interval). But 5 times out of 100 it would fall outside this range.

The smaller the survey sample, the more uncertain the estimate and the wider the confidence interval. For example, fewer people from the Black ethnic group were sampled for this survey than British White people, so we can be less certain about the estimate for this smaller group (1.6% of all Black people). This greater uncertainty is expressed by the wider confidence interval for the percentage of Black people drinking at harmful or mild dependence levels of 0.6% and 3.9%.

Suppression rules and disclosure control

Individuals’ information has been kept confidential by:

  • analysing people’s drinking levels by ethnicity and gender with no further breakdowns
  • using broad categories for ethnicity and making the groupings of drinking levels sufficiently large
  • maintaining large underlying populations for analysis in the survey

No further suppression or other disclosure control has been applied.

Rounding

Percentages have been rounded to one decimal point.

Quality and methodology information

Further technical information

APMS 2014 Background Data Quality Statement

Data sources

Source

Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

National Statistics

Publisher

NHS Digital

Publication frequency

Purpose of data source

The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) series provides England's National Statistics for the prevalence of mental illness and treatment access in the adult household population.

Download the data

Harmful and probable dependent drinking among adults - Spreadsheet (csv) 15 KB

This file contains: ethnicity, sex, Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) score, risk level, value, lower confidence interval, upper confidence interval, unweighted sample size