A “shocking” jump in the number of people dying of liver disease has been triggered by an increase in heavy drinking, experts warn today.
The first ever regional study into the disease revealed a 40 per cent rise in deaths in the past 12 years, with men twice as likely to be diagnosed as women.
Public Health England said 24-hour drinking and higher levels of alcohol consumption are directly linked to the “rapid and shocking” increase in death rates.
The study uncovered a stark north-south divide with up to four times as many male adults dying from the disease in Blackpool, 58.4 per 100,000, than central Bedfordshire, 13 per 100,000.
In the seaside town there is one licensed premise for every 72 adults, almost half of which have 24-hour licences, compared with one for every 280 adults in central Bedfordshire where less than 10 per cent have 24-hour licences.
In Yorkshire, the highest male death rate was in Hull at 30.2 per 100,000. Officials said premature deaths from liver disease in the city were significantly higher than the English average for men and women. The highest number of licensed premises is in York with one for every 178 adults.
The disease is the only major cause of death in England which is on the rise, while in the rest of Europe the death rate is falling in line with alcohol consumption.
Some 7,481 people died from liver disease in 2001 compared with 10,948 in 2012, making it one of England’s top killers.
Prof Julia Verne, head of liver disease at PHE, said: “These results were far more shocking than I imagined. This is a rapid increase in deaths in just over 10 years. It’s clear from looking at the data that the continuous availability of alcohol, and not just binge drinking, is fuelling an increase in deaths from liver disease.”