Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Alcohol-related deaths 'falling'

Alison Rogers, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust on the new figures

The number of alcohol-related deaths has started to decline after years of steady increases, figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

There were 8,724 such deaths in the UK in 2007, or 13.3 per 100,000 people, down from 13.4 the previous year.

However the rate is still nearly double that recorded in 1991. Over this period, older men have remained the group most at risk.

Younger drinkers - those aged between 15-34 - saw the lowest death rates.

These figures were however up slightly between 2006 and 2007, from 2.4 per 100,000 to 2.6.

OVERALL DEATHS
Men: 5,732 or 18.1 per 100,000
Women: 2,992 or 8.7 per 100,000

But there were falls in other groups. Men aged 35-54 saw the largest decrease, from 31.1 per 100,000 to 30.2.

Nonetheless, men of all ages remain much more likely than women to die of alcohol-related conditions: at 18.1 per 100,000 the male alcohol-related death rate is more than twice that of females, at 8.7 per 100,000.

The male death rate since 1991 has increased dramatically, nearly doubling over the period, while the female rate has seen a much steadier rise.

Future deaths

Professor Martin Plant, a specialist in alcohol addiction at the University of the West of England, said the figures were good news.

But he said: "The UK still has a very serious alcohol problem, and it is still not being properly addressed.

"Governments of various political persuasions have been very reluctant to listen to medical and scientific advice not to waste money on media campaigns that are frankly unlikely to change drinking behaviours, but to use taxation to reduce alcohol consumption."

Professor Ian Gilmore, President of the Royal College of Physicians, said: "A doubling of alcohol-related deaths in the span of 16 years is a stark reminder of the toll of alcohol misuse on the nation's health as well as on the fabric of our communities.

"It is also notable that male death rates not only have doubled, but remain substantially higher than those of women, suggesting more work needs to be done to reinforce the message among young men that they may pay a fatal price for drinking so heavily in their 20s and 30s. While individual responsibility is vital, government can and should do more."

Charities greeted the figures with caution.

Today's figures demonstrate that alcohol misuse is one of the most serious public health problems facing the UK, and that it needs to be tackled urgently
Alcohol Concern

Alison Rogers, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said: "We welcome the slight dip in deaths from last year's figures, but we are worried that rates of excessive drinking are still on the increase.

"As a result, we can expect more deaths in the future, given that liver disease can take 10 years to develop."

Alcohol Concern said it was "vital that the government starts investing more in alcohol treatment to help problem drinkers address these issues before itís too late".

"Today's figures demonstrate that alcohol misuse is one of the most serious public health problems facing the UK, and that it needs to be tackled urgently," the charity's chief executive Don Shenker said.

Dawn Primarolo, Minister for Public Health, said alcohol remained "one of the most challenging public health issues we face" but added a government campaign to inform people about the number of units in their drinks was beginning to take effect.

"Initial tracking from our £6m Units campaign, launched in May last year, shows more people know how many units are in their drinks, and what the recommended limits are. Over the coming months, we hope to see have a sustained impact on alcohol misuse."

In separate figures released by the ONS, suicide rates have fallen to their lowest levels since 1991. In 2007, there were 5,377 suicides in adults aged 15 and over - almost 1,000 less than in the early 1990s.

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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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