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Last Updated: Friday, 25 January 2008, 10:37 GMT
Alcohol-related deaths 'rising'
Image of a man drinking
Men still drink more than women

The number of people in the UK dying from alcohol-related problems is continuing to rise.

Office for National Statistics figures show there were 13.4 alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 population in 2006 - up from 12.9 in 2005.

The mortality rate in men (18.3/100,000) was more than twice the rate for females (8.8/100,000).

The overall death rate has almost doubled from 6.9 deaths per 100,000 people in 1991.

It appears that for certain younger people who've been drinking heavily for most of their lives, the consequences are beginning to show themselves at ever earlier stages
Frank Soodeen
Alcohol Concern

In total 8,758 deaths were linked to alcohol in 2006, compared to 4,144 deaths in 1991.

For men, the death rates in all age groups increased between 1991 and 2006.

The biggest increase was for men aged 35-54. Rates in this age group more than doubled over the period, from 13.4 to 31.1 deaths per 100,000.

However, the highest rates in each year were for men aged 55-74.

Similar pattern in women

Death rates by age group for females were consistently lower than rates for males.

However, the death rate for women aged 3554 doubled between 1991 and 2006, from 7.2 to 14.8 per 100,000 population.

The government desperately needs to take a tougher approach with the alcohol and retail industry
Sarah Matthews
British Liver Trust

Again, the highest rates in each year were for the 55-74 age group.

Frank Soodeen, of the charity Alcohol Concern, said: "The link between alcohol misuse and ill health is well established.

"However these figures reveal some disturbing trends. For the second year in a row, the biggest rise in deaths has been among men aged 35-54.

"It appears that for certain younger people who've been drinking heavily for most of their lives, the consequences are beginning to show themselves at ever earlier stages.

"It is vital that the government finally starts investing more in alcohol treatment to help problem drinkers address these issues before the situation becomes irretrievable."

Dr Christopher Record, a liver disease consultant based in Newcastle, said: "There is terrific pressure in society for people to drink. Those that don't drink are considered to be freaks and abnormal.

"But the main reason why, we are drinking more is alcohol is too cheap. Alcohol now is 50% less expensive that it was 25 years ago and, needless to say, consumption has gone up by 50% pro rata."

Professor Ian Gilmore, President of the Royal College of Physicians, was particularly concerned by the rise in deaths among women.

"My colleagues and I are certainly seeing more women with serious liver damage than ever before in our clinics," he said.

Tougher line call

Sarah Matthews, of the British Liver Trust, said that a major part of the problem was that alcohol was cheap, readily available and glamorised by celebrities.

"The government desperately needs to take a tougher approach with the alcohol and retail industry, clamping down on cheap promotions and irresponsible advertising - particularly before the 9pm watershed.

"Clear and effective health warnings on alcohol like 'alcohol kills' would also help in raising awareness of the damage that alcohol can have."

Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said the government was launching a 10m education campaign to raise awareness of alcohol, and reviewing alcohol pricing and promotion.

It had also toughened enforcement of underage sales by retailers, and planned more help for people who wanted to drink less.

She said: "We know we're not going to change people's attitudes to alcohol overnight - it's going to take time, but it's reassuring to see that figures, published earlier this week, suggest alcohol consumption is no longer on the rise."

SEE ALSO
Men 'drink far more than women'
22 Jan 08 |  Health
'I just couldn't stop drinking'
22 Jan 08 |  Health

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