Rise in Alcohol Related Hospital Admissions

Drink-related hospital admissions in England have reached record levels according to a new compilation of statistics, published today by The Information Centre for health and social care (The IC), which present a broad national picture of alcohol use. Numbers admitted to hospital with a diagnosis of alcoholic liver disease have more than doubled over the past ten years with 35,400 admissions in 2004-05, up from 14,400 in 1995-96. Twice as many men as women were admitted with this illness. Death rates linked to alcoholic liver disease have also risen steadily to just over 4,000 in 2004, a 37 per cent increase in the 5 years since 1999.

In-patient care for people who have mental health or behavioural disorders resulting from alcohol misuse, has also increased significantly, rising to 126,300 admissions in 2004-05, from 72,500 in 1995-96 (75 per cent over the ten years). Cases of hospital admissions of patients with alcoholic poisoning have also increased, 21,700 in 2004-05 compared with 13,600 a decade earlier.

The report highlights that the nation’s thirst for drink begins at an early age. A national survey in 2005 found that nearly one in four secondary school children (22 per cent) aged between 11 and 15 said they had drunk alcohol in the week before they were interviewed. Cider, lager, beer and alcopops are the drinks of choice for this age group, with the average amount consumed doubling between 1990 and 2000 to 10.4 units per week. Consumption has remained at this level for the past five years.

A 2004 survey of adult drinking found that three quarters of the men interviewed (74 per cent) and over half of all women (59 per cent) had taken a drink in the previous week Young adults were the most likely to binge drink than any other age group, 33 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women aged from 16 – 24 drank more than double the recommended number of units (8 for men 6 for women) on one day in the previous week. Older adults (45 to 64) are more likely to drink smaller amounts regularly, on five or more days of the week.

Although this research shows relatively high levels of alcohol consumption, the UK occupies a middle position when European Union countries are ranked according to average alcohol consumption. According to the World Health Organisation figures for 2001 Luxembourg heads the consumption table, with its residents drinking a per capita average of 17.54 litres of alcohol a year, compared with the UK’s 10.39 litres.

The survey also confirms that the weekend is the nation’s favourite time for drinking. Young people (16-25) and adults up to age 44 drink most alcohol on Saturdays, 33 per cent and 35 per cent respectively. Older people (64 plus) say they drink most on Sundays (30 per cent) and adults in middle age (45-64) consume the most alcohol on Saturday (24 per cent) and Sunday (26 per cent).

Professor Denise Lievesley, The Information Centre’s Chief Executive, commented: “This report presents a broad picture of drinking habits in England. It shows that we cannot underestimate the effect of alcohol on health. By presenting this data we hope that health professionals will be better equipped to put their work in context and to raise awareness of the dangers of alcohol misuse.”