Drinking Kills Twice As Many As In 1991

The number of people dying from alcoholism has more than doubled in 15 years and continues to rise, government statistics have revealed. In 1991 a total of 4,144 men and women died from drinkrelated illness in Britain, but by last year the annual figure had leapt to 8,386, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Experts have attributed the rise to the advent of a heavy-drinking culture as alcohol has become cheaper and more widely available. The statistics suggest that binge drinking by teenagers in the past two decades is contributing to early deaths before middle age.

The biggest increase in deaths from alcohol consumption was for men and women aged between 35 and 54, where rates had nearly doubled since 1991. Men are more than twice as likely as women to die from diseases or conditions linked to alcohol consumption, such as chronic liver disease or pancreatitis, the ONS said.

Last year the death rate for men was 17.9 deaths per 100,000 of the population, compared with 8.3 deaths per 100,000 for women, but the gap between the sexes has widened in recent years. The highest death rate for both sexes, 43.5 per cent, was between the ages of 55 and 74.

Overall, there was a small rise of 165 alcohol deaths between 2004 and 2005, but experts said that the actual fatal effects were likely to be far higher because the ONS figures do not include deaths from cancer, violence or accidents linked to drinking.

Frank Soodeen, a spokesman for Alcohol Concern, said: “Tragic as they are, these figures are conservative and hardly come as a surprise.

“Rising consumption and alcohol-related mortality have been linked as far back as 1950. Binge drinkers should take particular note of the rise in the number of people aged between 35 and 54 who are now dying because of heavy drinking in earlier life.”

Adjusting for inflation and other economic factors, alcoholic drinks are estimated to be 54 per cent cheaper on average than they were in 1980, Mr Soodeen said. Last year the licensing laws in England and Wales for selling alcohol were also relaxed, allowing bars and clubs to stay open for longer.

“Given that 16 to 24-year-olds are now among the heaviest consumers of alcohol in Britain, these figures paint a bleak picture for their future health. Drinkers need to realise that alcohol misuse is implicated in a range of fatal diseases, from cancer to severe psychosis, which can strike at relatively young ages.”

Drink-related hospital admissions in England have reached record levels, according to NHS statistics. Hospital admissions for alcoholic liver disease more than doubled in a decade, reaching 35,400 in 2004-05. Alcoholic liver disease deaths increased by 37 per cent. Admissions for alcoholic poisoning increased to 21,700 from 13,600 over the same ten years.

Chris Cook, an addiction expert based at Durham University, said that he believed that death rates were linked to the increase in consumption, which needed to be addressed with more stringent measures, such as alcohol taxes, to control drinking.

The Department of Health said: “We are concerned about the number of alcohol-related deaths and are committed to tackling this problem. We are currently introducing measures set out in the Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England, which will help reduce alcohol related deaths.”