Britons Drink More Than Ever as Beer, Wine Becomes Stronger

British drinkers are consuming a record amount of alcohol and more than 40 percent of people view binge drinking as part of the country’s “culture,” according to a report by market research company Mintel.

Increased levels of alcohol in beverages meant people drank 10 percent more in 2008 than eight years earlier, though the volume of drinks consumed each year since 2000 is little changed, Mintel’s senior drinks analyst Jonny Forsyth wrote today in an e-mailed statement.

Five percent “premium” lagers have become more popular while bottles of wine, which may have had 11 percent alcohol by volume in the 1970s, are now likely to be around 13 percent, the report said. About 42 percent see binge drinking as “part of Britain’s culture” and nearly a quarter of those surveyed think there is “nothing wrong with drinking to excess.”

Binge drinking is defined by the National Health Service as consumption of more than eight units of alcohol on any one day for men and six units for women, which represents double the recommended daily limit, according to the NHS “Know Your Limits” Web site. A pint of ordinary strength lager or a small glass of wine is equivalent to two units.

“Younger drinkers are binge drinking too much on the one hand, and older drinkers, while drinking less per session are often drinking over the weekly recommended drinking allowance, by drinking little and often,” Forsyth wrote. More than 20 percent of adults surveyed said that they drink more at home than they did a year ago because it helps them relax.

The higher alcohol content of drinks has “snuck by the average drinker,” said Andre McClean, a 28-year-old solicitor in All Bar One on Moorgate in London. “In the City it’s not really acceptable not to have a drink in your hand but no one has come up with a good alcohol-free beer.”

At the same time, the percentage of the adult population agreeing that “the point of drinking is to get drunk” has dropped 13 percent over the past five years, suggesting that binge drinking has become less socially acceptable, Mintel said.