Alcohol deaths ‘highest in 20 years’

Man Drinking Strong Alcoholic Drink

ALCOHOL killed more people last year than at any time in almost 20 years according to the latest statistics for England and Wales.

Provisional data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows that 19.6 per cent more people died as a direct result of drinking alcohol last year than did in 2019.

There were 7,423 deaths from alcohol recorded in 2020 which was the highest annual total since 2001 when officials began to gather statistics on drink-related death rates.

The highest death rates were recorded from October to December 2020 when there were 13.6 deaths per 100,000 people which was the worst for any quarter in the last two decades.

Death rates among drinkers in the first quarter of 2020 were up 8.5 per cent on the same period the previous year but began to rise steeply from April onwards to reach their highest since 2001.

Researchers noted that alcohol-related death rates have been found to increase in the first quarter of each year since 2001 but in 2020 the rates continued to rise throughout the year.

Between April and June death caused by alcohol rose by 17.4 per cent, from July to September by 21.9 per cent and soared to 28.3 per cent in the last quarter compared to 2019 figures.

The figures are based on only those deaths from illnesses that were a direct consequence of alcohol misuse such as alcoholic liver disease.

Data analysts say that these conditions were mostly long-term illnesses associated with continued misuse of alcohol and that the increase in deaths in 2020 can be attributed to those with a history of alcohol misuse or dependency.

Consistent with previous years, the alcohol-specific death rates for men were around twice the rates for women.

In previous years, alcohol-specific deaths have been highest in areas with the worst levels of deprivation. In 2019 the death rate for men was 3.8 times higher in the  most deprived areas than the least deprived areas and the rate for women was 3.2 times higher.

In 2020 the alcohol-related death rate was 4.2 times higher among men in the poorest areas but for women in the most deprived areas the death rate was 3.0 higher which was a drop from previous years.

Experts say that there have been ‘many complex factors’ impacting on the elevated rates of alcohol-specific deaths since April 2020 and that these were yet to be fully understood.However, they note changes in alcohol consumption rates since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic and the consumption of alcohol being a contributing factor to hospital admissions and deaths.

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Christine Humphreys

Christine Humphreys

Chris Humphreys is the co-founder of The Alcohol-Free Shop and AlcoholFree.com. She was a journalist for more years than she cares to remember. Ex-wife of an alcoholic, enthusiastic amateur musician and a passionate dog lover.

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