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Alcohol-Related Deaths in UK Rising

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The number of people in the United Kingdom dying from alcohol-related problems continues to rise. Figures released by National Statistics shows that alcohol-related deaths among men rose from 13.4 deaths per 100,000 in 2006 to 18.3 per 100,000 in 2007. This is twice the rate among women, which is at 8.8 deaths per 100,000.

The biggest increase was for men ages 34-54—more than 100% in the past year. Meanwhile, women between the ages of 55 and 74 showed the highest gains. It is reported that in the age group 16-24 women regularly drink twice the recommended daily limit. This is worrying to many in the medical profession, as there is evidence that health problems such as cirrhosis of the liver develop more quickly in women than in men.

Frank Soodeen, of the charity Alcohol Concern, said, “The link between alcohol misuse and ill health is well established.”

He added, “It appears that for certain people who’ve been drinking heavily for most of their lives, the consequences are beginning to show themselves at ever earlier stages” (BBC).

Dr. Christopher Record, a liver disease consultant based in Newcastle, said, “There is terrific pressure in society for people to drink. Those that don’t drink are considered to be freaks and abnormal” (ibid.).

It was noted that one of the main reasons people are drinking more alcohol is because it is cheap: Alcohol now is 50% less expensive than it was 25 years ago, and, consumption has gone up by 50% pro rata. This was also confirmed by Sarah Matthews, of the British Liver Trust, who said that alcohol was cheap, readily available and glamorized by celebrities.

Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, was particularly concerned by the rise in deaths among women. “My colleagues and I are certainly seeing more women with serious liver damage than ever before in our clinics,” he said.

Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said the government was launching a £10m education campaign to raise awareness of alcohol’s potential dangers, and reviewing alcohol pricing and promotion. “The government desperately needs to take a tougher approach with the alcohol and retail industry, clamping down on cheap promotions and irresponsible advertising—particularly before the 9 p.m. watershed” (ibid.).

It was also said that alcohol should contain clear warnings, such as “Alcohol kills,” in addition to tougher enforcement on retailers who sell to underage drinkers. Alcohol Concern has put the price of alcohol abuse in Britain at £3.3 billion a year in sickness absence, unemployment and premature deaths. The cost to the NHS is estimated at £200 million.

More people die in Britain today from alcohol related illness than from drug abuse. As the consumption of alcohol increases alarmingly, the costs to the health service and industry are running into billions of pounds.


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