5,000 die every year from abuse of alcohol

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The harmful effects of drinking have caused more than 5,000 deaths every year in England and Wales for the last decade, official figures show.

The misuse of alcohol has become a “serious and worsening public health problem”, according to a report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It warns that alcohol results in 2.5 million deaths worldwide each year, with more than 5,000 deaths in England and Wales in each of the last 10 years.

“Excessive alcohol consumption is a major cause of preventable premature death, accounting for 1.4 per cent of all deaths registered in England and Wales in 2012,” the study went on.

The report comes as new data for 2012, released today, shows a slight drop in the number of alcohol-related deaths across the whole of the UK.

In 2012, there were 8,367 alcohol-related deaths in the UK, 381 fewer than in 2011.

The study found the north of England had the most deaths while there were fewest in the south. Men aged 60 to 64 were most likely to die.

Of the UK’s four countries, only Scotland had male and female death rates in 2012 that were significantly lower than 2002.

Meanwhile, overall death rates were highest among men aged 60 to 64.

In England and Wales, accidental alcohol poisoning was the fourth highest (396 deaths) alcohol-related cause of death in 2012, with over a third of cases among people in their 40s.

There were 14 deaths from accidental alcohol poisoning among people in their 20s, the report also showed.

Overall, there has been an 11-year rise in alcoholic liver disease deaths between 2002 and 2012. Alcoholic liver disease causes most deaths from alcohol, accounting for 63% of the total in 2012.

This is 18% higher than the number of deaths in 2002, which was 3,629.

Sarah Hanratty, deputy chief executive of the Portman Group, which represents the drinks industry, said: “It is encouraging that ONS have found another reduction in alcohol-related deaths - 381 less than in 2011 and down 7.3% from the 2008 peak of 9,031.

“But there are still marked regional variations which need to be understood and addressed through strong partnerships working together in those areas.”

The Local Government Association (LGA) said local areas should be able to limit the opening of late-night pubs, clubs and off licences in areas where alcohol-related health problems are rife.

It said Government rules mean councils are forced to ignore advice from health experts when considering applications.

Katie Hall, chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “Local health experts have a vital role to play in advising councils on the potential impacts of an application to open new licensed premises.

“That makes it even more nonsensical that councils are being forced to ignore their advice when considering additional licences they know could be a health hazard.

“The Government needs to see sense and help communities by updating licensing rules and adding a new health objective. This would help improve the health of local areas and also ease the pressure on the nation’s stretched health services.”

Eric Appleby, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: “It’s encouraging to see a decline in the number of alcohol-related deaths but overall thousands of people are still dying because of it.

“We are facing historically high levels of health harms caused by alcohol misuse, with over a million alcohol-related hospital admissions each year; and we’re one of the few European countries where liver disease is on the increase.

“To tackle this, we’re urging the Government to take tougher action including introducing minimum unit pricing.”

The figures show that in the decade to 2012, death rates from alcohol rose in England (2%) and Wales (15%), but fell in Scotland by 37% for men and 34% for women.

Death rates also dropped by 8% in Northern Ireland.