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Increase in alcohol-related deaths continues in worrying trend

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) today released an estimate of the number of alcohol-related deaths in the UK in 2015. According to the figures, alcohol-related deaths have increased for the third year running, reaching 8,758.

This follows 8,697 alcohol-related deaths in 2014, 8,416 in 2013 and 8,367 in 2012, and represents almost double the number of alcohol-related deaths compared with 20 years ago; in 1995, there were 4,929 alcohol-related deaths recorded in the UK.

At the same time, Public Health England (PHE) released its own estimates of alcohol-related deaths in England. Using a different methodology, and using a broader definition of what constitutes an alcohol-related death, PHE estimate that there were 23,500 alcohol-related deaths in England in 2015. This is up from 2014, when there were almost 23,000.

A new indicator measuring the potential years of life lost due to an alcohol-related cause showed that 294,000 years of life were lost before the age of 75 in 2015 (illustrated, below).

From next year, the ONS will use the same methodology as PHE.

Commenting on the figures, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said:

“Despite recent falls in overall alcohol consumption, the upward trend of alcohol related deaths persists.

“We know that alcohol is the third largest risk factor for disability and disease, and the biggest risk factor for death, ill-health and disability for people aged 15-49. Yet the UK government has yet to implement the measures needed to lower this burden of alcohol-related mortality.

“It is a social and economic crisis for 294,000 years of life to be lost prematurely due to alcohol-related causes in only a single year.

“We need measures which address the pocket money prices alcohol is being sold at, the 24-hour availability of alcohol, and its heavy marketing.

“A good opportunity for action is approaching, with the Chancellor’s spring budget this March. The Chancellor should increase the duty on cheap, high strength cider, and introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol, which we know would reduce consumption and in doing so, the attendant harm.”