England’s drinking problem causing more liver disease deaths

alcoholThe country’s increasingly problematic drinking culture has been attributed to a shocking rise in the number of deaths from liver disease, health experts have warned.

The first regional study into liver disease showed a staggering 40% increase in the number of deaths from the preventable disease – and men are twice as likely as women to be diagnosed with it.

Professor Julia Verne, who led the new research for Public Health England (PHE) blames 24-hour drinking and more alcohol consumption for the “rapid and shocking” rise in death rates from liver disease.

The study demonstrated a huge north-south divide, with more than four times as many male adults dying from liver disease in Blackpool (58.4 per 100,000) than in central Bedfordshire (just 13 per 100,000).

The north generally seems to have more of a drinking issue compared to their southern counterparts. In Northumberland, Lancashire and Leeds, liver disease from alcohol consumption is responsible for 11 deaths in every 100,000 people under the age of 75, whilst in Hampshire and Surrey, the figure stands at just six in every 100,000.

Death from liver disease is now understandably being described as a growing epidemic, being the fifth “big killer” across England and Wales, after heart disease, cancer, strokes and respiratory disease.

During 2001 to 2012, the number of people dying from liver disease in England has risen from 7,841 to 10,948 – an increase of 40%.

The majority of liver disease cases are directly related to three main risk factors: alcohol, obesity and viral hepatitis, whilst 5% of cases are due to autoimmune disorders – i.e. where there is abnormal functioning of the immune system.

“Liver disease is a public health priority because young lives are being needlessly lost,” commented Prof Verne. “All the preventable causes are on the rise, but alcohol accounts for 37% of liver disease deaths. We must do more to raise awareness, nationally and locally, and this is why it is so important for the public and health professionals to understand their local picture.”

Emily Robinson, deputy chief executive of Alcohol Concern said: “It’s a tragedy that we’re actually seeing cases of young people in their 20s dying of alcoholic liver disease, when this can be prevented. The so called ‘alcopops generation’ have grown up in a society where alcohol is available at almost anytime, anywhere, at incredibly cheap prices and promoted non-stop.

“The government needs to make tackling the rise in liver disease an urgent priority and action must include introducing a minimum unit pricing for alcohol, a policy that promises to save hundreds of lives and reduce thousands of hospital admissions each year.”

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