Almost three-million years lost to booze in six years

Christine Humphreys
by Christine Humphreys
Published: March 19, 2024
DEATHS from drink have cost almost 3 million years of human life in England in six years.
Records show there were 139,943 alcohol-related deaths in England between 2016 and 2022.
Researchers calculate that this amounts to 2,997,247 potential years of life stolen by booze due to premature death.
During this period, 45,314 deaths were a direct result of drinking alcohol - mainly from liver damage.

Increase in Alcohol-Specific Deaths

The numbers dying directly from drink have risen by 56.7% since researchers started the Alcohol Profile study in 2006 which records the annual body count from hitting the bottle.
Data published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) indicate that twice as many in the poorest regions die from drink as do in the wealthiest areas.
Alcohol-related deaths are those in which alcohol was a significant contributory factor while alcohol-specific deaths are those where alcohol was the main cause.
Most recent figures show there were 7,912 deaths found to be wholly down to alcohol in 2022 which was 4.7% higher than the previous year and is predicted to continue to rise.
This compared to 5,050 in 2006 when the government Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) established the Alcohol Profile study. These figures aim to help plan for future health and social care needs.

Regional Disparities in Mortality Rates

The alcohol-specific mortality rate was highest in England’s North East region at 21.8 per 100,000 population and lowest in the East of England region at 11.0 per 100,000 population.
Between 2006 and 2022 researchers totted up 97,752 deaths directly related to alcohol.
They calculated that in 2022 the potential years of life lost was 322,188 for men and 151,422 for women.
This data collection helps track alcohol-specific and alcohol-related mortality as well as deaths from chronic liver disease and road accident casualties. It also reveals the number of hospital admissions for alcohol-specific and alcohol-related illness.
As well as alcohol-specific deaths, there were almost 22,000 alcohol-related deaths in 2022. More than 8,000 were due to chronic liver disease including cirrhosis.
There were 342,795 hospital admissions for alcohol-specific conditions which works out at 626 per 100,000 of the population of England.
For alcohol-related conditions - where booze was the main cause for admission or a contributory factor - the figure rose to 948,312 which was 1734 per 100,00.
It’s estimated that the annual cost of alcohol misuse to the NHS is £3.5 billion a year and £21 billion annually to society as a whole.

Policy Implications and Calls for Action

Researchers estimate the number of potential years lost based on the age at death and life expectancy.
Figures for alcohol-related deaths go back only as far as 2016 due to the introduction of changes in the way records were compiled.
The death toll for England has been published at a time when the Scottish Parliament is expected to approve plans to raise the Minimum Unit Price (MUP) of alcohol from 50p a unit to 65p.
Public Health Scotland said last year that MUP was associated with a 13.4% fall in deaths wholly attributable to alcohol, alongside a 4.1% reduction in alcohol-related hospital admissions. There was also evidence that the scheme had helped to reduce alcohol-related health inequalities.
England's Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) is urging the introduction of similar schemes in the rest of the UK.
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Alice Wiseman
In England, the last national strategy to tackle alcohol harm was published in 2012. This set out 30 commitments and actions to reduce alcohol harm including reducing the availability of cheap alcohol through duty rises and minimum unit pricing.
Alice Wiseman, ADPH Vice-President and Director of Public Health for Gateshead Council in the north east of England, believes action is ‘long overdue’.
She said: “The evidence from Scotland is clear – MUP works. There hasn’t been an alcohol strategy in England since 2012 and we need to see strong Government action, the way we have seen with tobacco.”
“The time is long overdue for a clear national approach to addressing all harmful and unhealthy products so that we can put an end to the undue amount of influence industries – who necessarily need to increase sales of harmful products to make profit – have over our health.”
Christine Humphreys

About The Author

Christine Humphreys
Chris Humphreys is the co-founder of The Alcohol-Free Shop and 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.