Record 32 million spurn bars and see in New Year at home

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The Independent Online

If you were spending this New Year's Eve at home with the cat and your loved one, you would not have been unusual.

A record 32 million people - nearly three-quarters of Britons - were expected to shun crowded pubs and bars and celebrate the arrival of 2006 indoors with family and friends.

The figures, based on an ICM poll of more than 1,000 people, are up 20 per cent on last year and reflect a growing trend among men, and especially women, drinking at home.

Despite concerns about 24-hour licensing and drink-related violence, research shows Britain's pub culture is actually on the decline. There has been a fall of nearly a quarter over the past five years in the number of those aged 18 to 34 who spend their leisure time in the local.

A survey of more than 25,000 men and women across Britain by the British Market Research Bureau (BMRB) shows that nearly 23 million people now do most of their drinking at home, compared to a little more than 18 million in 2000.

This staying-in trend is most popular among teenagers, people in their early twenties, women and those in southern England. Fears of drink-related violence, drink-spiking and the unprecedented rise in wine-drinking have all contributed.

Target Group Index (TGI) which did the research for BMRB said only pubs that served food had stayed popular. Julian Tooke, of TGI, said: "The fact that pub-going figures are falling among the young, who are the main frequenters and the future of the market, bodes poorly for pubs."

A poll this year found at least three-quarters of people drink before they go out and they leave the house later for an evening out. And after negative publicity about binge-drinking and irresponsible drinks promotions, the drinks industry has been swift to exploit the onset of the alcoholic night in.

Freixenet, the sparkling-wine producer, is launching an advertising campaign aimed at women between 35 and 45 who prefer staying in with friends, using the line, "The best nights out don't always involve going out".

Others are doing tie-ins with supermarkets and off-licences with larger bottles and a greater variety of chilled alcoholic drinks.

But some health experts warn of risks in drinking at home. At the University of Edinburgh, researchers found the amounts people poured at home far exceeded those served in a bar.