I grew up in a teetotal household and my siblings still don’t drink. I was with my ex-husband on my first visit to a pub and I asked the baffled bartender if they had any herbal teas. By the time we split up, I was pairing wine with my food and turning my nose up at the lower shelves in the alcohol aisles at Waitrose. 

We are a nation of drinkers. But stats show that the number of us drinking is steadily declining. The latest Health Survey for England (HSE) says that the proportion of both men and women drinking at increased or higher risk of harm (more than 14 units per week) decreased between 2011 and 2017; from 34 per cent to 28 per cent of men, and from 18 per cent to 14 per cent of women.

In the second series of his reality TV show with wife Vogue Williams, Spencer Matthews shared his plans to produce alcohol-free gin. As he celebrates being sober for just over a year, Matthews predicts that alcohol will soon go the way of meat and cigarettes – both tainted with links to ill health and the environmental crisis. 

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With many of us claiming to be flexitarian – someone whose normally meatless diet occasionally includes meat and fish – it can be hard to get realistic figures on our meat-eating habits. According the , most British shoppers still describe themselves as meat eaters, with only 2 per cent identifying as vegan. But almost 20 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds say they don’t eat meat with a third of those under 35 say they are looking to eat less meat in the next 12 months. As for smoking, the public ban in the UK came into effect in July 2007 but the HSE reported that cigarette smoking among adults was already on the decline. Between 1993 and 2017, the percentage of adults smoking fell from 27 per cent to 17 per cent. 

Smoking and eating meat are fast becoming the social ills of the 21st century and it looks like alcohol consumption might be joining them. 

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UK news in pictures

Shape Created with Sketch.
UK news in pictures

1/51 2 November 2019

Pro Scottish Independence campaigners listen as Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister addresses a rally calling for Scottish independence in Glasgow

2/51 1 November 2019

Police and recovery workers remove a damaged bus from the scene of a crash in Sevenoaks Road, south-east London. A man has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving after a person died and 15 others were injured

3/51 31 October 2019

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn gestures as launches the party’s election campaign in south London. Britain will go to the polls on December 12

4/51 30 October 2019

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon joins Alyn Smith, the SNP’s candidate for Stirling, at the Made in Stirling Store and Creative Hub, during the general election campaign trail

5/51 29 October 2019

A 1264 locomotive travels through an autumn scene along the North York Moors National Park

6/51 28 October 2019

Paul Hayes of Lower Lydbrook ferries children to dry land after the River Wye burst its banks flooding the Gloucestershire village
Cosplayers during the third day of London’s Comic Con

8/51 26 October 2019

England fans celebrate after their side beat New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup semi-final match in Japan. Eddie Jones’s side won 19-7

9/51 25 October 2019

Meerkats at Blair Drummond Safari Park, Stirling, investigate a carved pumpkin as the park celebrates national pumpkin day on Saturday October 26.

10/51 24 October 2019

A giant inflatable monster, created by artists Filthy Luker and Pedro Estrellas, is unveiled in Manchester ahead of the city’s annual halloween celebrations

11/51 23 October 2019

Thirty-nine bodies have been found in a lorry container in Essex, police have said.

The discovery of 38 adults and one teenager was made at an industrial estate in Thurrock.

Police said they believed the lorry had come from Bulgaria and entered the UK at Holyhead, in Wales, on Saturday.

Essex Police said it had launched a murder investigation after its officers were called to Waterglade Industrial Park, in Grays, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

A 25-year-old-man from Northern Ireland has been arrested on suspicion of murder

12/51 22 October 2019

Ships out at sea before the sun rises off the coast of Whitley Bay, Northumberland

13/51 21 October 2019

Hundreds of students take part in the traditional Raisin Monday foam fight on St Salvator’s Lower College Lawn at the University of St Andrews in Fife. The messy display is the culmination of a weekend of festivities where first years say thank you to their more senior student “parents” for mentoring them

14/51 20 October 2019

Wales players celebrate after beating France in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final in Japan. Warren Gatland’s side had to battle after France’s fast start but capitalised on their rivals’ ill discipline to squeeze into the semi-finals, 20-19

15/51 19 October 2019

People gather in London to join the Final Say march for a people’s vote

16/51 18 October 2019

Protesters on Whitehall in London during an Extinction Rebellion climate change protest

17/51 17 October 2019

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson shake hands during a news conference after agreeing on a Brexit deal, in Brussels

18/51 16 October 2019

A man walks his dog through the fallen leaves in Clarkes Gardens, Allerton in Liverpool

19/51 15 October 2019

Police officers carry away an activist as Extinction Rebellion protesters block a road with a caravan in central London

20/51 14 October 2019

Queen Elizabeth II sits with Prince Charles on the Sovereign’s throne ahead of delivering the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament

21/51 13 October 2019

Great Britain’s Joe Fraser competes on Parallel Bars during the World Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. He claimed GB’s second gold with his victory. The 20-year-old from Birmingham nailed his routine to score 15.0 then watched as a series of rivals failed to live up to his total

22/51 12 October 2019

St Helens players celebrate with the trophy after they won the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford in Manchester. They beat Salford Red Devils 23-6

23/51 11 October 2019

Richard Ratcliffe, husband of British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe jailed in Tehran since 2016, holds his daughter Gabriella during a news conference in London. Their five-year-old daughter has arrived back in Britain, after making the “bittersweet” decision to bring her home

24/51 10 October 2019

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Thornton Manor. Their meeting focused on further Brexit proposals

25/51 9 October 2019

Wales survived an almighty scare against Fiji to secure quarter-final spot at the rugby world cup. Warren Gatland’s side recovered from a 10-0 deficit thanks to a hat-trick from Josh Adams

26/51 8 October 2019

Protesters dubbed the Red Rebels at Millbank at the junction with Great College Street, during an Extinction Rebellion protest in Westminster

27/51 7 October 2019

Final preparations are made in front of a reproduction of Michelangelo’s ‘The Last Judgement’, ahead of the opening of for the ‘Michelangelo: A Different View’ exhibition at Hull Minister

28/51 6 October 2019

A car drives through a flooded street in Whitley Bay in Northumberland

29/51 5 October 2019

Thousands took to the streets of Edinburgh today to march in support of a second Scottish independence referendum

30/51 4 October 2019

A 12ft sculpture of a gorilla, entitled ‘Gorilla Apocalypse’, created by Luke Kite entirely from scrap car bumpers and panels discarded in the last decade is on display at the British Ironwork Centre in Oswestry, Shropshire

31/51 3 October 2019

Police stands in front of the Treasury building during an Extinction Rebellion protest in London

32/51 2 October 2019

Ex-Thomas Cook employees demonstrate in London after delivering a petition calling for a full inquiry into Thomas Cook’s collapse and for the company’s directors to pay back their bonuses

33/51 1 October 2019

A road in Alum Rock, Birmingham is flooded after persistent heavy rain

34/51 30 September 2019

Two tourists pose for pictures in front of Union and EU flags outside the Houses of Parliament in London

35/51 29 September 2019

A sheep on London Bridge as Freemen of the City of London took up their historic entitlement to drive sheep over the bridge, which was once London’s only river crossing

36/51 28 September 2019

An Aldabra giant tortoise is fed watermelon as a treat at the Malvern Autumn Show, at the Three Counties Showground near Malvern in Worcestershire

37/51 27 September 2019

Gallery assistants pose with an artwork entitled ‘Devolved Parliament’ by British artist Banksy, during a press view in London ahead of Sotheby’s contemporary art sale, as part of the Frieze Art Fair

38/51 26 September 2019

England’s Jonathan Joseph is tackled by United State’s Marcel Brache during their group match at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. England scored seven tries on their way to winning 45-7

39/51 25 September 2019

Tributes for former Rangers player Fernando Ricksen at Ibrox Stadium. Today, the funeral procession will pass Ibrox Stadium before making the journey to Wellington Church

40/51 24 September 2019

A person dressed as a caricature of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a prison uniform stands outside the Supreme Court after it ruled that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal

41/51 23 September 2019

Thomas Cook aircraft are parked up at Manchester Airport on the day they collapsed after rescue talks failed. A total of 22,000 jobs – including 9,000 in UK – are to be lost following administration. More than 150,000 British holidaymakers need to be brought home, with the government and CAA hiring dozens of charter planes to fly customers home free of charge

42/51 22 September 2019

Fire performer Penella Bee performs before people take part in the North East Skinny Dip at Druridge Bay in Nothumberland, an annual event that marks the Autumn Equinox and raises money for MIND – the Mental Health Charity

43/51 21 September 2019

Protesters gather for a march and rally organised by “The People’s Vote” in Brighton, to call for politicians to give the public a final say referendum on Brexit

44/51 20 September 2019

Protesters in London joined millions across world to demand urgent action to save planet in the largest environmental protest in history

45/51 19 September 2019

Rapper Dave poses with the Mercury Prize: Albums of the Year Award at Apollo

46/51 18 September 2019

A surfer in action during sunrise at Tynemouth on the north east coast

47/51 17 September 2019

Protesters dressed as the Incredible Hulk and Robocop outside the Supreme Court in London where judges are due to consider legal challenges to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament. The Supreme Court will hear appeals over three days from two separate challenges to the prorogation of Parliament brought in England and Scotland

48/51 16 September 2019

Farmer Tom Hoggard harvests pumpkins at Howe Bridge Farm in Yorkshire, ahead of Halloween

49/51 15 September 2019

Team Europe celebrate winning the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, Scotland. Europe won the last three singles matches to claim victory 14½-13½
Sunset at St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay

51/51 13 September 2019

Activists from PETA stage a demonstration outside a venue during London Fashion Week in London, Britain

1/51 2 November 2019

Pro Scottish Independence campaigners listen as Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) leader Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister addresses a rally calling for Scottish independence in Glasgow

2/51 1 November 2019

Police and recovery workers remove a damaged bus from the scene of a crash in Sevenoaks Road, south-east London. A man has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving after a person died and 15 others were injured

3/51 31 October 2019

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn gestures as launches the party’s election campaign in south London. Britain will go to the polls on December 12

4/51 30 October 2019

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon joins Alyn Smith, the SNP’s candidate for Stirling, at the Made in Stirling Store and Creative Hub, during the general election campaign trail

5/51 29 October 2019

A 1264 locomotive travels through an autumn scene along the North York Moors National Park

6/51 28 October 2019

Paul Hayes of Lower Lydbrook ferries children to dry land after the River Wye burst its banks flooding the Gloucestershire village
Cosplayers during the third day of London’s Comic Con

8/51 26 October 2019

England fans celebrate after their side beat New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup semi-final match in Japan. Eddie Jones’s side won 19-7

9/51 25 October 2019

Meerkats at Blair Drummond Safari Park, Stirling, investigate a carved pumpkin as the park celebrates national pumpkin day on Saturday October 26.

10/51 24 October 2019

A giant inflatable monster, created by artists Filthy Luker and Pedro Estrellas, is unveiled in Manchester ahead of the city’s annual halloween celebrations

11/51 23 October 2019

Thirty-nine bodies have been found in a lorry container in Essex, police have said.

The discovery of 38 adults and one teenager was made at an industrial estate in Thurrock.

Police said they believed the lorry had come from Bulgaria and entered the UK at Holyhead, in Wales, on Saturday.

Essex Police said it had launched a murder investigation after its officers were called to Waterglade Industrial Park, in Grays, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

A 25-year-old-man from Northern Ireland has been arrested on suspicion of murder

12/51 22 October 2019

Ships out at sea before the sun rises off the coast of Whitley Bay, Northumberland

13/51 21 October 2019

Hundreds of students take part in the traditional Raisin Monday foam fight on St Salvator’s Lower College Lawn at the University of St Andrews in Fife. The messy display is the culmination of a weekend of festivities where first years say thank you to their more senior student “parents” for mentoring them

14/51 20 October 2019

Wales players celebrate after beating France in their Rugby World Cup quarter-final in Japan. Warren Gatland’s side had to battle after France’s fast start but capitalised on their rivals’ ill discipline to squeeze into the semi-finals, 20-19

15/51 19 October 2019

People gather in London to join the Final Say march for a people’s vote

16/51 18 October 2019

Protesters on Whitehall in London during an Extinction Rebellion climate change protest

17/51 17 October 2019

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson shake hands during a news conference after agreeing on a Brexit deal, in Brussels

18/51 16 October 2019

A man walks his dog through the fallen leaves in Clarkes Gardens, Allerton in Liverpool

19/51 15 October 2019

Police officers carry away an activist as Extinction Rebellion protesters block a road with a caravan in central London

20/51 14 October 2019

Queen Elizabeth II sits with Prince Charles on the Sovereign’s throne ahead of delivering the Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament

21/51 13 October 2019

Great Britain’s Joe Fraser competes on Parallel Bars during the World Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. He claimed GB’s second gold with his victory. The 20-year-old from Birmingham nailed his routine to score 15.0 then watched as a series of rivals failed to live up to his total

22/51 12 October 2019

St Helens players celebrate with the trophy after they won the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford in Manchester. They beat Salford Red Devils 23-6

23/51 11 October 2019

Richard Ratcliffe, husband of British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe jailed in Tehran since 2016, holds his daughter Gabriella during a news conference in London. Their five-year-old daughter has arrived back in Britain, after making the “bittersweet” decision to bring her home

24/51 10 October 2019

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Thornton Manor. Their meeting focused on further Brexit proposals

25/51 9 October 2019

Wales survived an almighty scare against Fiji to secure quarter-final spot at the rugby world cup. Warren Gatland’s side recovered from a 10-0 deficit thanks to a hat-trick from Josh Adams

26/51 8 October 2019

Protesters dubbed the Red Rebels at Millbank at the junction with Great College Street, during an Extinction Rebellion protest in Westminster

27/51 7 October 2019

Final preparations are made in front of a reproduction of Michelangelo’s ‘The Last Judgement’, ahead of the opening of for the ‘Michelangelo: A Different View’ exhibition at Hull Minister

28/51 6 October 2019

A car drives through a flooded street in Whitley Bay in Northumberland

29/51 5 October 2019

Thousands took to the streets of Edinburgh today to march in support of a second Scottish independence referendum

30/51 4 October 2019

A 12ft sculpture of a gorilla, entitled ‘Gorilla Apocalypse’, created by Luke Kite entirely from scrap car bumpers and panels discarded in the last decade is on display at the British Ironwork Centre in Oswestry, Shropshire

31/51 3 October 2019

Police stands in front of the Treasury building during an Extinction Rebellion protest in London

32/51 2 October 2019

Ex-Thomas Cook employees demonstrate in London after delivering a petition calling for a full inquiry into Thomas Cook’s collapse and for the company’s directors to pay back their bonuses

33/51 1 October 2019

A road in Alum Rock, Birmingham is flooded after persistent heavy rain

34/51 30 September 2019

Two tourists pose for pictures in front of Union and EU flags outside the Houses of Parliament in London

35/51 29 September 2019

A sheep on London Bridge as Freemen of the City of London took up their historic entitlement to drive sheep over the bridge, which was once London’s only river crossing

36/51 28 September 2019

An Aldabra giant tortoise is fed watermelon as a treat at the Malvern Autumn Show, at the Three Counties Showground near Malvern in Worcestershire

37/51 27 September 2019

Gallery assistants pose with an artwork entitled ‘Devolved Parliament’ by British artist Banksy, during a press view in London ahead of Sotheby’s contemporary art sale, as part of the Frieze Art Fair

38/51 26 September 2019

England’s Jonathan Joseph is tackled by United State’s Marcel Brache during their group match at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. England scored seven tries on their way to winning 45-7

39/51 25 September 2019

Tributes for former Rangers player Fernando Ricksen at Ibrox Stadium. Today, the funeral procession will pass Ibrox Stadium before making the journey to Wellington Church

40/51 24 September 2019

A person dressed as a caricature of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a prison uniform stands outside the Supreme Court after it ruled that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal

41/51 23 September 2019

Thomas Cook aircraft are parked up at Manchester Airport on the day they collapsed after rescue talks failed. A total of 22,000 jobs – including 9,000 in UK – are to be lost following administration. More than 150,000 British holidaymakers need to be brought home, with the government and CAA hiring dozens of charter planes to fly customers home free of charge

42/51 22 September 2019

Fire performer Penella Bee performs before people take part in the North East Skinny Dip at Druridge Bay in Nothumberland, an annual event that marks the Autumn Equinox and raises money for MIND – the Mental Health Charity

43/51 21 September 2019

Protesters gather for a march and rally organised by “The People’s Vote” in Brighton, to call for politicians to give the public a final say referendum on Brexit

44/51 20 September 2019

Protesters in London joined millions across world to demand urgent action to save planet in the largest environmental protest in history

45/51 19 September 2019

Rapper Dave poses with the Mercury Prize: Albums of the Year Award at Apollo

46/51 18 September 2019

A surfer in action during sunrise at Tynemouth on the north east coast

47/51 17 September 2019

Protesters dressed as the Incredible Hulk and Robocop outside the Supreme Court in London where judges are due to consider legal challenges to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament. The Supreme Court will hear appeals over three days from two separate challenges to the prorogation of Parliament brought in England and Scotland

48/51 16 September 2019

Farmer Tom Hoggard harvests pumpkins at Howe Bridge Farm in Yorkshire, ahead of Halloween

49/51 15 September 2019

Team Europe celebrate winning the Solheim Cup at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, Scotland. Europe won the last three singles matches to claim victory 14½-13½
Sunset at St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay

51/51 13 September 2019

Activists from PETA stage a demonstration outside a venue during London Fashion Week in London, Britain

Last month was Sober October, an initiative by cancer charity Macmillan. Sober October is a challenge for people to say no to booze for 31 days and raise money for people living with cancer. The challenge being, of course, that most of us have a glass of wine, or something else, at the end of a good/bad day. There are also the temptations of bottomless brunch cocktails at the weekend and a few more glasses with our Sunday roast. And this is before we factor in date drinks, pre-drinks, nights out drinks, leaving drinks, birthday drinks and Friday drinks. 

But how do we feel about those of us who don’t drink? Known for their contribution to awkward dining experiences, meat avoiders may be unpopular house guests but there are a growing number of restaurants catering for specific diets. And smokers can pop out for a quick cigarette without really bothering anyone, unless you’re left shuffling around awkwardly inside on your own.

When it comes to drinking, people always want to know why – are you pregnant? On a diet? On antibiotics? In a large group, a non-drinker will always stand out and awkwardly so, when it comes to buying rounds with your colleagues. 

But there are many good reasons to stop drinking. As I get older, I feel the effects of alcohol much more than I did a decade ago, and it no longer seems worth it to spend my weekend in recovery after a heavy Friday night.

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I know lots of people who look forward to the reprieve of Dry January after an indulgent Christmas period – either from the shame of alcohol-induced behaviour or overconsumption. A friend of mine deliberately stopped buying alcohol to save money and pay off her credit card bill. She did it in less than six months. 

Right now, I’m tempted to give it up for my physical and financial health. I’ve noticed I have lighter and easier periods when I stop drinking for a while – and more money in my bank account. I’d like to give an alcohol-free lifestyle a try, but it might take a while to get my social life on side. Maybe I’ll start in January? I’m sure I won’t be the only one.