Page last updated at 15:22 GMT, Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Alcohol 'toll on young soaring'

Man drinking
Alcohol misuse is a major problem for the NHS

The number of young people admitted to hospital with liver disease linked to drinking too much alcohol has soared, government figures for England show.

Hospital admissions for alcoholic liver disease among the 18-40 age group rose from 2,967 in 1997-98 to 6,495 in 2006-07.

The figures were obtained by Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow.

A government spokeswoman said ministers were determined to tackle the problem of alcohol misuse.

The human cost in terms of poor health and premature death and the financial cost in terms of the drain on the NHS and the lost productivity must be huge
Paul Burstow
Liberal Democrat MP
The figures show that among all age groups there were 43,548 hospital admissions in 2006/07 for alcoholic liver disease.

Another 27,040 hospital admissions were linked to the toxic effects of alcohol.

In addition, there were 158,656 admissions for mental health problems related to drinking, including 6,612 among those aged 17 and under.

Mr Burstow said the figures showed that ministers had failed to reduce the harm caused by alcohol.

He said: "These figures expose an iceberg effect where enormous problems are being stored up for the NHS in the future.

"Alcoholic liver damage takes 10-20 years to develop, so in the past it did not became apparent until people were in their 50s or 60s.

"But these figures show a growing trend with people who are in their thirties being diagnosed with liver disease caused by alcohol consumption.

"Behind these figures are huge human and financial costs.

"The human cost in terms of poor health and premature death and the financial cost in terms of the drain on the NHS and the lost productivity must be huge."

Pricing 'key'

Don Shenker, chief executive of the charity Alcohol Concern, said he was not surprised by the figures.

He said: "Young men and women are drinking much more than their counterparts of ten to 20 years ago.

"It is a sad fact that a rise in consumption is leading to a rise in harm to health."

Mr Shenker said government research had concluded that the best way to tackle the problem was to raise the cost of alcohol.

However, he said alcohol now was 65% more affordable than it was in 1980, due, in large part to supermarket discounts.

A government spokeswoman said a 10m campaign had recently been launched to raise awareness of alcohol and its effects.

In addition, ministers were committed to cracking down on irresponsible alcohol promotions.

She said: "We are determined to reduce the health and social harms caused by alcohol."

Survey

A separate study, commissioned by the government, found that 41% of drinkers are concerned about how much alcohol their friends and family consume.

The YouGov research also found women are more likely than men to worry about how much other people drink.

The survey found that 26% of UK adults who drink alcohol regularly consume more than the NHS recommended daily limit of two to three units for a woman and three to four units for a man.

Two-thirds of drinkers said they drink simply to socialise with friends, but 20% said they relied on alcohol to get through social situations.

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