People in the UK are consuming more alcohol than ever before, but the number of drinkers is going down, according to new research.

A study by Mintel, published today (27 August), has found that the proportion of alcohol drinkers in the UK is decreasing, but that those who do drink are drinking more than ever.

The amount of pure alcohol consumed by UK drinkers has increased by 10% since 2000, despite the actual volume of alcohol consumed (in litres) remaining static throughout this period, Mintel said.

Jonny Forsyth, senior drinks analyst at Mintel, said: "In the 1970s, a bottle of wine may have been around 11% in ABV and now the same bottle is more likely to be around 13%. Equally, we have seen stronger lager become much more popular over the past couple of decades, with the growth of the 5% "premium" lager sector."

He added: "It may be that the majority of consumers are not aware of ABV and don't even notice. So despite a greater societal concern with being healthy leading to a decline in drinking penetration, by stealth we are drinking more pure alcohol than ever."

The research also showed that, counter to public belief, the appeal of binge drinking amongst younger people is on the decrease. In the past five years, the number drinking at least two or three times a week has decreased by 13% amongst 18 - 24 year old men and 26% amongst 18- 24 year old women.

"Britain's deeply engrained drinking culture will be slow to change but the key challenge for the Government is to help drinkers consume fewer units for each drink they have," Forsyth said. "The success of recent reduced alcohol beer and lager lines is also significant for drinks manufacturers, suggesting that there is a growing consumer appeal for drinking more sensibly across all types of drinks".

Nearly 60% of consumers claim to be more aware of campaigns encouraging them to drink responsibly, and 49% say they were are more aware of binge drinking then they used to be, Mintel said. 

However, the research also shows 22% of adults drink more at home than a year ago because it helps them to relax.

Around 42% of consumers claimed binge drinking is part of the UK's culture, while a quarter of drinkers said there was nothing wrong with drinking to excess.