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Expert Reaction: Record number of alcohol-related deaths

Posted on 5 February 2019

The number of alcohol-related deaths has reached a new high, according to the latest figures from NHS Digital.

Ian Hamilton says more work needs to be done to reduce the harm caused by alcohol and tobacco. Pic credit: Chris Kim

Ian Hamilton, an expert in mental health at the University of York's Department of Health Sciences, looks at some of the issues behind the rise.

He said: “Unfortunately a new record has been set for the number of people dying as a result of alcohol, with 5843 dying mainly from liver disease in 2017. Twice as many men as women loose their lives as a result of drinking, a trend that has been consistent for some time. Most of these deaths occur for people in their 40's, 50's or 60's; they are dying decades before they should. 

 “There is also a clear North / South divide as the rate of alcohol deaths is higher in northern areas, there is also evidence that it is those in the most deprived areas that are disproportionately affected. This is at odds with drinking patterns among the highest income groups who were found to be more likely to drink excessively or in a risky way such as binge drinking.

 “Alcohol is significantly more affordable than it has ever been and collectively we are spending more on alcohol than we ever have as a population. Ensuring alcohol remains affordable has been the aim of the alcohol industry as they have successfully lobbied successive governments to ensure taxation on drinks is kept to a minimum, they have clearly succeeded. 

 “Although it is good news for some that alcohol is more affordable than ever, this is clearly harming the 4% of people who consume over a third of the alcohol available. Despite this there was a 6% decrease for those in treatment, suggesting that at a time when we should be expanding treatment for alcohol problems we are actually reducing availability, this will no doubt have contributed to the record numbers dying due to alcohol.”

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