Older drinkers account for majority of 7,000-plus deaths

Last year saw 7,327 ‘alcohol-specific’ deaths in the UK, according to the latest ONS figures, with the highest death rate in the 55-64 age group.

Most male deaths were in the 60-64 age range and most female deaths in the 55-59 range, with the death rate among men aged 70-74 increasing by around 50 per cent since 2001. Given that many of the deaths will be the result of chronic conditions like alcoholic liver disease the increases are likely to be ‘a consequence of the misuse of alcohol that began several years, or even decades, previously,’ says the report.

While overall alcohol-related death rates have remained stable for the last three years they are still higher than at the turn of the century, says ONS, although they have generally been declining since their 2008 peak. The death rate remains around 55 per cent higher among men than women, and although Scotland is still the UK country with the highest rate it has also seen the largest fall since the early 2000s.

Since its last statistical release ONS has revised its definition of alcohol-specific deaths to include conditions where death is a ‘direct consequence’ of alcohol use – such as alcoholic liver disease or alcohol-induced pancreatitis – but not those where ‘only a proportion’ of deaths are caused by alcohol, such as cancers of the mouth and liver. The definition of alcohol-specific deaths is therefore ‘a more conservative estimate on the harms related to alcohol misuse’, the ONS states.

‘It is tragic that 7,327 men and women in the UK died because of alcohol last year,’ said chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, Izzi Seccombe.

Izzi Seccombe: ‘Behind appalling statistics are real people.’

‘Behind these appalling statistics are real people – fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, husbands and wives. What is particularly concerning about these figures is that the rates of alcohol-related deaths were highest in middle aged and older age groups. These statistics should serve as a warning around the dangers of regular drinking over a long period of time.’

‘Alcohol-related deaths are preventable, and councils would be able to do more if government reverses the cuts to the public health grant in the Autumn Budget,’ she added.

Meanwhile the Children’s Society claims that parental alcohol misuse is ‘damaging the lives’ of around 700,000 UK teenagers. The pressures on teenagers in homes where alcohol or drugs are being misused can lead to them ‘developing mental health problems, running away from home or being excluded from school’, says the charity, which surveyed 3,000 teenagers and their parents. Nearly a quarter of teens in homes suffering alcohol misuse were also taking on caring responsibilities for siblings or parents, it adds.

Matthew Reed: ‘Without support, families quickly reach crisis point.’

‘The hundreds of thousands of children whose parent has a drinking problem are sadly just the tip of the iceberg of children in desperate need of support,’ said chief executive Matthew Reed. ‘Specialist services working with families to combat problem drinking, support for teenagers whose parent has mental ill health, or safe spaces for them to go when pressures at home mount, are becoming ever harder to find. Without support at an early stage as problems emerge, these families can quickly reach crisis point and the risks for the children involved grow.’

Alcohol-specific deaths in the UK: registered in 2016 at www.ons.gov.uk

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