Soaring food costs and the energy bill crisis pushed inflation to 5.4% in the 12 months to December 2021, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.
The last time inflation, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index, was higher was in March 1992, when it stood at 7.1%.
The current rate is far above the Bank of England's target of 2%.
Rising prices for food and non-alcoholic beverages contributed the most to the inflation rise, while consumer prices as a whole rose by 4.8%.
Petrol prices partially offset price rises, which, despite being at record levels, were stable in December 2021.
The ONS has repeatedly warned about relying too much on 12-month inflation figures, but Grant Fitzner, chief economist at the ONS, said base effects on the headline rate of inflation are "negligible".
Jack Leslie, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, said:
"The drivers of inflation are becoming more broad-based, though still goods-focused, and will therefore affect everyone across society.
"Periods of sustained inflation over 5% will be a new experience for new millennials and Generation Z, and a throwback to older generations who remember the 1980s."
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