No rise in alcohol-specific deaths in UK

The number of alcohol-specific deaths in the UK in 2016 remains unchanged since 2013 but continue to be concentrated in the poorest areas of the country.

According to new figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of alcohol-specific deaths in the UK in 2016 was 7,327 – the equivalent of 11.7 deaths per 100,000 of population.

This is, more or less, unchanged since 2013 but represents a very small increase from 2015. The rate is still higher than in 2001 when the rate was 10.6 deaths per 100,000 but is also substantially down from the peak in 2008 when deaths hit 12.7 per 100,000.

Breaking the deaths down by sex, age and geographic location, the ONS reported that male deaths from alcoholic causes remain considerably higher than those among women (by 55% in fact), while death rates remained higher among 55-64 year olds.

Scotland remained the constituent country with the highest rate of alcoholic death, Northern Ireland had the highest rate for women and the poorer north of England also witnessed higher rates than the south.

The 2016 report defines alcoholic-specific deaths covers conditions where, “each death is a direct consequence of alcohol misuse (that is, wholly-attributable deaths.”

As it continues: “The definition is primarily based on chronic (longer-term) conditions associated with continued misuse of alcohol and, to a lesser extent, acute (immediate) conditions.”

The definition does not include diseases where alcohol can only be partly attributed to the cause, such as cancers of the mouth, oesophagus and liver, although other health agencies, such as Public Health England, do take these into account when calculating death rates.

As the report went on, among men death from alcohol was 16.2 per 100,000 whereas among women it was 7.5 per 100,000.

Between 2001 and 2016 the rate of deaths among older men aged 60 and above has risen sharply, likely representing the toll caused by much heavier drinking among older generations. Likewise, among women aged over 60 the death rate has also risen over the same period.

Scotland remains the country in the UK with the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths for both men and women although it has also seen some of the biggest decreases too.

For instance, in 2001 deaths per 100,000 males in Scotland due to alcohol was 39, whereas in 2016 it was 30.9.

Nonetheless, this is still a long way above the death rate among males in England (14.5) and Wales (22.2).

In Northern Ireland, meanwhile, between 2013 and 2016 the rate of alcohol-related deaths among women has increased from 6.4 per 100,000 to 11.8 – rising to levels similar to Scotland where the rate is 12.1 per 100,000 women.

In England meanwhile alcohol deaths (among both men and women) remain entrenched among the poorer northern areas of the country, especially in the north east.

The lowest rate of deaths can be seen in the east of England and notably in London where alcohol-related deaths between 2001 and 2016 have both fallen – especially among men.

As to the cause for this, ONS stated: “A possible explanation for regional differences in alcohol-specific deaths could be that those in deprived areas are differentially affected by the alcohol they consume. Specifically, the alcohol consumption harm paradox shows that consumption in more deprived areas can often be the same or even less than that in less deprived areas, but harm is elevated in the more deprived areas. This could be due to the existence of other health problems, differences in drinking habits and access to healthcare.”

For the full report, click here.

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