Over the course of 2020, the number of deaths caused by alcohol increased by almost 19% according to the Office for National Statistics, with last year witnessing the biggest rise in alcohol deaths since records began. In addition, Public Health England (PHE) reported that, during the first lockdown, there was a noticeable increase in the number of people consuming more than 14 units a week, with the Head of Health Analysis pointing out that “loneliness, depression, and anxiety” may have been key factors fostering this trend. The Guardian has the story.
There were 8,974 deaths from alcohol specific causes registered in the 12 month period, up from 7,565 deaths in 2019 – the highest year-on-year increase since the data series began in 2001. It bucks a trend in which fatalities from alcohol remained stable for the previous seven years.
In England, the number of people drinking more than 14 units a week increased after the first national lockdown, according to surveys by PHE, and has remained at similar levels since. As pubs shut, drinking at home soared, with off-licence sales of beer rising 31% and spirits 26% compared with 2019.
Dr. James Tucker, the Head of Health Analysis, said: “There will be many complex factors behind the elevated risk since spring 2020.
“For instance, Public Health England analysis has shown consumption patterns have changed since the onset of the Covid pandemic, which could have led to hospital admissions and ultimately deaths. We’ve seen increases in loneliness, depression and anxiety during the pandemic and these could also be factors. However, it will be some time before we fully understand the impact of all of these.”
Close to eight out of 10 of the deaths were from alcoholic liver disease and although alcohol-related cirrhosis can take a decade or more to develop, most deaths occur as a result of acute-on-chronic liver failure owing to recent alcohol intake, a PHE study in July found.
Scotland and Northern Ireland continued to have the highest rates of alcohol deaths, but the fastest rises were in Wales and England. The sharpest rise in deaths in England was in the West Midlands, followed by the south-west and London. Nearly twice as many men died as women, which is consistent with previous years.
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