Page last updated at 12:04 GMT, Thursday, 28 January 2010

Alcohol deaths up but overall drinking falls

Branwen Jeffreys
Health Correspondent, BBC News

silhouette of man drinking wine
The ONS says the heaviest drinking takes place at home

Alcohol related deaths in the UK rose to 9,031 in 2008, up from 8,724 the previous year.

Further research by the Office for National Statistics also shows that the amount being drunk in Britain has fallen slightly.

Middle-class professionals are still tending to drink more than people on lower incomes.

Professional adults drink 13.8 units a week, but someone doing a manual job is likely to drink around 10.6 units.

The trend to less consumption began in 2002 and is unlikely to be reflected in figures on the alcohol deaths for some years.

A second report from the ONS published today suggests that most drinking takes place at home, rather than in pubs or bars.

The percentage of people who had bought alcohol from an off-licence in the previous year has gradually fallen from 37% in 1998 to 27% in 2009.

But the percentage of people buying alcohol from supermarkets has increased from 25% in 2008 to 29% in 2009.

More people had also bought alcohol in a restaurant - up from 57% in 1998 to 62% in 2009.

New advert

The Department of Health in England is launching a new television advert today to warn of the hidden damage from alcohol.


The Department of Health's latest alcohol advert

It shows the effect of heavy drinking on vital organs, and is part of the continuing effort to convince people to drink within the recommended healthy limits.

For a man that is 21 units a week and 14 for a woman.

The figures published today will feed into a continuing political debate about alcohol.

A recent report by the Commons health select committee called for a minimum price per unit of alcohol.

Proposals to introduce a minimum price in Scotland are unlikely to get through the Scottish Parliament as the minority SNP government has failed to win the necessary backing from the other parties.

Government efforts to combat alcohol misuse should be focused on the minority of people who drink excessively, not the vast majority who enjoy a drink in moderation
Jeremy Beadles, Wine and Spirits Trade Association

Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of the Wine and Spirits Trade Association, said: "Today's Government figures confirm the continued fall in overall alcohol consumption in the UK and reflect changing consumer tastes around Europe with more people drinking at home and a preference for drinking alcohol with a meal in a restaurant.

"While we should be concerned by the rise in alcohol related-deaths, it's important to remember that overall alcohol consumption has been falling now for several years, suggesting Government efforts to combat alcohol misuse should be focused on the minority of people who drink excessively, not the vast majority who enjoy a drink in moderation."

Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians and chair of the UK Alcohol Health Alliance, said:

"These figures are a stark reminder of the needless waste of human life which results from our destructive relationship with alcohol.

"Despite increased investment in public health campaigns to address problem drinking and the harmful effects of alcohol, deaths from alcohol abuse have more than doubled in the last 16 years and are still rising.

"We must take tough action now to tackle cheap drink, round the clock availability and insidious marketing and promotions that influence drinking behaviours."

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The ScotsmanScottish Business Briefing - Friday Januar 29, 2010 - 4 hrs ago
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