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Alcohol-related hospital admissions have more than doubled since 1966

According to the NHS Information Centre report, “Statistics on Alcohol in England, 2008,” the number of hospital admissions with a primary or secondary diagnosis specifically related to alcohol has increased from 93,459 in 1995/96 to 207,788 in 2006/07. Secondary diagnoses include, for example, a patient admitted with concussion who was also intoxicated, or a patient admitted for tonsillitis who also had alcoholic liver disease.

Of these 207,788 admissions, 43,548 were diagnosed with alcoholic liver disease, more than three times the number in 1995/96. 45,085 were diagnosed with acute intoxication and 65,780 were diagnosed with dependence syndrome, both more than twice the equivalent numbers in 1995/96. There were 18,309 diagnoses of withdrawal state, roughly four times as many as in 1995/96. 

There was also an increase in the number of alcohol-related deaths, though not so severe. In 2006, 6,517 people died from an alcohol-related cause, up 19% since 2001 (compared with a 70% increase in alcohol-related hospital admissions over the same period). The majority of the deaths were due to alcoholic liver disease or fibrosis and cirrhosis of the liver: 5,650 in total, up 22% since 2001.

For most of the diagnoses, men are between twice and three times as likely as women to be admitted to hospital. The exception is toxic effect of alcohol, for which 15% more women than men are admitted. For withdrawal state, psychotic disorder and amnesia, more than three times as many men as women are admitted to hospital. 90% more men than women die from alcohol-related causes.

These increases reflect the increase in alcohol consumption in the UK. However, whilst the total alcohol consumption has increased by 17%, from 9.3 litres of pure alcohol per adult in 1995 to 10.9 litres per adult in 2006, hospital admissions have increased much more sharply. Furthermore, total alcohol consumption has fallen slightly from a peak of 11.5 litres per adult in 2004, but hospital admissions have continued to rise. This is true not just for long-term illnesses such as liver disease, but also for acute intoxication.

The Information Centre report covered a number of other areas as well as hospital admissions. The main findings were:

Drinking among adults

  • In England in 2006, 72% of men and 57% of women reported drinking an alcoholic drink on at least one day in the week prior to interview. Twelve per cent of men and 7% of women reported drinking on every day in the previous week.
  • Forty per cent of men and 33% of women had drunk more than the daily recommended number of units on at least one day in the week prior to interview. Twenty three per cent of men and 15% of women had drunk more than twice the recommended daily intake.
  • Older people were more likely to drink regularly – 28% of men and 16% of women aged 65 and over drank on five or more days in the week prior to interview compared to 9% of men and 3% of women aged 16 to 24.
  • Among men, 31% reported drinking on average more than 21 units in a week. For women, 20% reported drinking more than 14 units in an average week.
  • In Great Britain in 2007, 69% of people reported that they had heard of the government guidelines on alcohol consumption. Of these people, 40% said that they did not know what the recommendations were.
  • Thirty-eight per cent of adults in 2007 had seen units of alcohol displayed on labels of alcoholic drinks, compared to 23% in 2000.
  • In England in 2005, 45% of pregnant women did not drink during pregnancy. Older women were more likely to report drinking during pregnancy than younger women.

Drinking among children

  • In 2006, 21% of pupils in England aged 11 to 15 reported drinking alcohol in the week prior to interview; continuing the recent decreasing trend since 2001.
  • Since 2001, the proportion of pupils who have never drunk alcohol has risen; in 2006, 45% of pupils said they had never had a proper alcoholic drink, compared to 39% in 2001.
  • In contrast to the recent decrease in drinking prevalence among pupils, the average consumption among pupils who had drunk alcohol in the week prior to interview was 11.4 units in 2006, the highest ever recorded in the survey.
  • In 2006, 15% of pupils thought it was okay to get drunk at least once a week. This figure varied largely depending on age; at 3% for 11 year old pupils and 30% for 15 year old pupils.

Drinking-related ill-health and mortality

  • In 2007, there were 112,267 prescription items for drugs for the treatment of alcohol dependency prescribed in primary care settings in England. This is an increase of 20% since 2003, when there were 93,241 prescription items.
  • In 2006, in England, there were 6,517 deaths directly linked to alcohol, of which two thirds were men. This has increased by 19% since 2001 when there were 5,476 deaths.
  • In 2006/07, there were 57,142 NHS hospital admissions in England with a primary diagnosis specifically related to alcohol. This number has risen by 52% since 1995/96. Of these admissions 4,888 (9%) involved patients under 18 years of age.
  • In 2006/07, there were 207,788 NHS hospital admissions in England with a primary or secondary diagnosis specifically related to alcohol. This number has more than doubled from 93,459 in 1995/96.

Alcohol-related costs

  • In 2004, the government estimated that alcohol misuse costs the health service between £1.4 and £1.7 billion per year.
  • In 2007, alcohol was 69% more affordable in the United Kingdom than it was in 1980.
  • In 2006/07, just over a half of violent attackers, where the attack resulted in wounding and minor injuries, were believed to be under the influence of alcohol by their victims at the time of incident.

Regional comparisons

In 2006/07, NHS hospital admissions per 100,000 population with a primary diagnosis specifically related to alcohol varied regionally throughout England; North West Strategic Health Authority (SHA) having the highest rate of 170 admissions per 100,000 population and East of England SHA showing the lowest rate of 72 admissions per 100,000 population.

Almost one in four Local Authorities (LAs) were estimated to have a significantly higher binge drinking rate than England as a whole. These were highly concentrated in the north of the country, with 98% of these LAs located in three Government Office Regions; North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber.

The full report and data tables are available here.