But although binge drinking among men fell between 1998 and 2006, and fewer adults are exceeding weekly unit guidelines, the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions has rocketed by 69% since 2002-03 to 863,300 in 2007-08.
The NHS report also warns that 24% of adults drink at hazardous levels. Six per cent of men and 2% of women are classed as “harmful” drinkers, meaning that damage to health is likely.
Among men between 1998 and 2006, the proportion drinking more than eight units on at least one day of the week fell from 22% to 18%. Among women drinking more than six units on at least one day of the week, no such reduction was seen.
The proportion of men drinking more than 21 units a week on average fell from 28% to 23%, while the percentage of women drinking more than 14 units in an average week fell from 15% to 13%.
There was also encouraging news about under-age drinking. In 2007, 20% of school pupils aged 11 to 15 reported drinking alcohol in the previous week, lower than the 2001 figure of 26%.
In 2007, 46% of pupils said they had never had a proper alcoholic drink, compared to 39% in 2003. In 2007, pupils who drank in the last week consumed an average of 12.7 units.