Skip to main content


Table 1 Topics addressed by surveys in England regarding alcohol use

From: Protocol for a national monthly survey of alcohol use in England with 6-month follow-up: ‘The Alcohol Toolkit Study’

Representative surveys Outline Sample Design Alcohol questions addressed at baseline Additional notes
National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) [17] Survey of food consumption, nutrient intakes and nutritional status. Set up in 1992/93 following the 1986/87 Dietary and Nutritional Survey of British Adults [18] 1992 to 1999 surveys covered four age groups: pre-school children (aged 1.5 to 4.5 years), young people (aged four to 18 years), adults (aged 19 to 64 years) and older adults (aged 65 and over). Initially consisted of cross-sectional surveys conducted every 3 years. Since 2008, surveys have been conducted annually with the addition of a “four-day food diary”. • Alcohol consumption in the past week Two year delay in publication of the findings.
• On the heaviest drinking day, amount drunk
• Type of alcohol consumed
2000/2001 survey covered those aged 19 to 64 years.
2008 to present surveys cover all individuals’ aged 1.5 years and older living in private households. Data are currently collected on around 500 adults (aged 19 and over) and 500 children each year (aged 1.5 to 18 years).
Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) [19] Set up in 2009. Consists of a longitudinal survey of subject’s health, work, education, income, family, and social life. Data collected on 40,000 households. Adult household members aged 16 or older are given the full length questionnaire and those aged 10–15 years of age are asked to complete a shorter version. Panel survey of households with yearly interviews. Data collection for a single wave is scheduled across 24 months. • Amount spent by the household on alcohol in the past month One to two year delay in publication of the findings. Only amount spent regularly assessed.
• Frequency of alcohol consumption whilst pregnant (ranged from less than one month to every day)
• Units of alcohol per week and per day
• Ever consumption of alcohol
• Number of alcoholic drinks in the past month
• Number of times intoxicated in the past month
Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) [20] Set up in 2012. A combination of the Opinions Survey and General Lifestyle Survey. Assesses individuals drinking, smoking and health, use of medical services, family information and fertility. Data collected on 13,200 adults per year (aged 16+). Monthly survey. Surveys do not run one month in every three years (June, September, December and March). • Number of days drank in the previous week One year delay in publication of the findings. Some questions from the General Lifestyle Survey were modified and so results may not be directly comparable (for further details see [21]). For example, the survey does not ask about the specific alcohol by volume (ABV) of every alcoholic drink but assumes an average for each type of drink.
• On the heaviest drinking day, the types and amount of alcoholic drinks consumed
Health Survey for England (HSE) [22] Set up in 1991. Involves a series of surveys to measure health and health related behaviours in adults and children. Data collected on 5000–15000 adults each year (aged 16+). Since 1995, it has also included children aged 2–15 years of age. Information on children under 13 is obtained from a parent. Survey conducted annually. • Frequency of drinking in the last 12 months (including those who never drink) One year delay in publication of the findings. Until 1997, drinking was measured using a series of questions that, for each type of drink, recorded the frequency of drinking within the last 12 months and the usual amount drunk on any single day. These quantity-frequency questions were dropped in 2003, but reinstated in 2011. Questions on the amount drunk in the past week were introduced in 2008.
• Number of drinking days in the last week
• For those who drank in the last week, the amounts of different types of alcohol drunk on the day they drank most.
• For those who drank in the last 12 months, the frequency of drinking different types of drink and the amounts of each drunk on a typical day.
General Lifestyle Survey (GLF)/General Household Survey (GHS) [23]. Set up in 1971 and terminated in 2012, when it became part of the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey. Collects information on demographic and health information, covering a wide range of topics. Data collected on 14,500 adults each year living in private households. Surveys conducted annually with follow-ups for 4 years. Break in 1997–1998 and 1999–2000. • Maximum amount drunk on any one day in the previous seven days Two year delay in publication of the findings. Questions on alcohol consumption only available post 1986 from the GHS and from 2008 from the GLF
• Average weekly alcohol consumption
Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) [24]. Set up in 1999. Collects data on the prevalence of both treated and untreated psychiatric disorders. Data collected on 8,000 working age adults each year in private households. In 1993 data collected on 16–64 year olds; in 2000 on 16–74 year olds; and in 2007 on 16–74 year olds. Surveys conducted every 7 years. • Hazardous and harmful drinking measured by the AUDIT Two year delay in publication of the findings.
• Alcohol dependence measured by the SADQ-C
Alcohol Toolkit study (ATS) Set up in 2014. This survey assesses alcohol consumption and related parameters; and is based on and linked with the Smoking Toolkit Study (STS). Data collected on 20,400 adults each year aged 16+. Monthly cross sectional surveys with 6 months follow-up. • Hazardous and harmful drinking measured by the AUDIT No delay in publication. Data published monthly on
• Current attempts to cut down consumption
• GP/health-care professional advice
• Type of alcohol consumed
• Motivation to cut down and consumption
• Amount spent
• Strength of urges to drink
• Number of recent serious attempts to cut down
• Aids used to help cut down
• Motives for attempts to cut down
International Alcohol Control Policy Evaluation Study (IAC): England and Scotland study (APISE) [25] Set up in 2012. This survey assesses alcohol consumption and related parameters. Aims to collect data on 2000 adults (aged 16+) in England. Annual survey with 12 month follow-up. • Proximal measures of policy impact (e.g. for the impact of pricing: product selection, and amount purchased, priced paid and price salience). Some delay in publication of the findings.
• Frequency of drinking and typical occasion quantity
• Preloading
• Drinking location (e.g. pub, own home)
• Perceptions of availability and affordability
  1. Note: AUDIT: Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test; SADQ-C: Severity of Alcohol Dependence Questionnaire; The questions are those which at the time of publication were asked in the surveys. Additional questions may be added or questions modified.