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Alcohol-related hospital admissions top 1 million for first time

New figures released on 26 May show that alcohol-related hospital admissions in England topped 1 million for the first time in 2009/10.

The report by the NHS Information Centre (NHS IC) shows the total number of admissions for alcohol-related problems in 2009/10 was 1,057,000, an increase of 12% from 2008/9 and more than twice as many as in 2002/3.

Other key findings of the report are:

Drinking behaviour among adults and children

In England, in 2009:

  • 69% of men and 55% of women (aged 16 and over) reported drinking an alcoholic drink on at least one day in the week prior to interview.  10% of men and 6% of women reported drinking on every day in the previous week.
  • 37% of men drank over 4 units on at least one day in the week prior to interview and 29% of women drank more than 3 units on at least one day in the week prior to interview.  20% of men reported drinking over 8 units and 13% of women reported drinking over 6 units on at least one day in the week prior to interview.
  • The average weekly alcohol consumption was 16.4 units for men and 8.0 units for women.
  • 26% of men reported drinking more than 21 units in an average week.  For women, 18% reported drinking more than 14 units in an average week.
  • 18% of secondary school pupils aged 11 to 15 reported drinking alcohol in the week prior to interview compared with 26% in 2001.
  • Around half of pupils had ever had an alcoholic drink (51%), compared with 61% in 2003.
  • Pupils who drank in the last week consumed an average of 11.6 units
  • The overall volume of alcoholic drinks purchased for consumption outside the home has decreased by 39% from 733 millilitres (ml) of alcohol per person per week in 2001/02 to 446 ml per person per week in 2009.  This reduction is mainly due to a 45% decrease in the volume of beer purchases from 623 ml to 342 ml per person per week over the same period.

Knowledge and attitudes to alcohol

  • In 2009, 90% of Great Britain (GB) respondents reported that they had heard of measuring alcohol in units.
  • There has been an increase from 54% in 1997 to 75% in 2009 in the percentage of people in GB who had heard of daily drinking limits.  Throughout the period, differences between men and women have been slight.

Drinking-related costs, ill health and mortality

In England:

  • In 2007, 33% of men and 16% of women (24% of adults) were classified as hazardous drinkers.  This includes 6% of men and 2% of women estimated to be harmful drinkers, the most serious form of hazardous drinking, which means that damage to health is likely.  Among adults aged 16 to 74, 9% of men and 4% of women showed some signs of alcohol dependence.  The prevalence of alcohol dependence was slightly lower for men than it was in 2000 when 11.5% of men showed some signs of dependence.  There was no significant change for women between 2000 and 2007.
  • In 2009/10, there were 1,057,000 alcohol-related admissions to hospital.  This is an increase of 12% on the 2008/09 figure (945,500) and more than twice as many as in 2002/03 (510,800).
  • The age and sex standardised number of alcohol-related admissions per 100,000 population varied among Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs).  The rate varied from 2,406 and 2,295 admissions per 100,000 population in North East SHA and North West SHA respectively, to 1,223 admissions per 100,000 population in South Central SHA.
  • In 2009/10, 63% of alcohol-related admissions were for men.  Among both men and women there were more admissions in the older age groups than in the younger age groups.
  • In 2010, there were 160,181 prescription items for drugs for the treatment of alcohol dependency prescribed in primary care settings or NHS hospitals and dispensed in the community.  This is an increase of 6% on the 2009 figure (150,445) and an increase of 56% on the 2003 figure (102,741).
  • The Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) of these prescription items was £2.41 million in 2010.  This is an increase of 1.4% on the 2009 figure (£2.38 million) and an increase of 40% on the 2003 figure (£1.72 million).
  • In 2010, 290 prescription items per 100,000 population were dispensed for alcohol dependency.  Among SHAs this varied from 515 and 410 items per 100,000 population in North West SHA and North East SHA respectively, to 130 items per 100,000 population in London SHA.
  • In 2009, there were 6,584 deaths directly related to alcohol.  This is a 3% decrease on the 2008 figure (6,769) but an increase of 20% on the 2001 figure (5,477).  Of these alcohol-related deaths, the majority (4,154) died from alcoholic liver disease.
  • It is estimated that the cost of alcohol-related harm to the NHS in England is £2.7 billion in 2006/07 prices.

The full report can be accessed here: http://www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/alcohol11