According to a report released by the National End of Life Care Intelligence Network yesterday, heavy drinking is a major cause of the 25% increase in deaths from liver disease in England over the last decade. The number of liver disease associated deaths is on the rise, compared to other major causes of death which have seen a decline. Alcohol related liver disease causes 3,880 deaths annually.
Those suffering from liver disease are reported to be increasingly younger, with a disproportionate number of young people dying from the disease compared to other illnesses. Around 90% of people who die from liver disease are under 70 years old. More than one in ten deaths in people in their forties occurred after a liver condition, of these, 37% were alcohol related.
According to the report, over the past decade 41% of deaths from liver disease occurred in men, and 30% occurred in women on average each year. Of all liver disease deaths, 37% are alcohol related and more alcohol related deaths occur in the male population than the female.
There are also variations in the number of alcohol related liver disease deaths on a regional scale. Over the past decade, the highest number of deaths occurred in the North West, South East and London. The greatest number of people dying from alcohol related liver disease also occurs in the most deprived areas.
According to Drink Aware, up to one in three adults in the UK drinks enough alcohol to be at risk of developing alcohol-related liver disease.
These statistics make for shocking reading and are likely to increase calls for more action to be taken against binge drinking. In the Government’s budget, detailed yesterday, it was decided that there will be no increase to alcohol duty, despite an increase of 5% above inflation on tobacco.
Improvements in the ability of the health care system to identify liver disease at an earlier stage have been called for, as has further investment in prevention strategies, such as increasing alcohol prices.
The government awareness campaign encouraging people to stick to the recommended daily limit of alcohol unit states that men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol (10ml of pure alcohol) a day, and women should not drink more than 2-3 units a day. Officials have also recommended that people leave at least two days a week drink free.
Keeping track of the number of units consumed isn’t always straight forward. According to NHS guidelines, a standard glass of wine contains 2.1 units, a pint of low strength lager (ABV 3.6%) contains 2 units, and a single shot contains 1 unit.
National Clinical Director for Liver Disease, Professor Martin Lombard said: “The key drivers for increasing numbers of deaths from liver disease are preventable, such as alcohol, obesity, hepatitis C and hepatitis B. We must focus our efforts and tackle this problem sooner rather than later”.