It’s the season where we all drink in excess, that many of us look forward to, but also dread for that very reason, and now new figures show that there is a very valid reason for that concern, and it’s not just embarrassing yourself at the work Christmas party. According to new research by the Office for National Statistics, alcohol-related deaths have reached their highest rate since 2008.
In 2017, there were eight deaths per 100,00 women, which is a similar level to 2001, when ONS records first began. The highest death rates among women were of those aged 55 to 59 years old, compared to 60 to 64-year-old men. While Scotland continues to have the worst rate of alcohol-specific deaths, it has experienced a 21% reduction since 2001, whereas there has been a 40% increase in Northern Ireland.
While England had the lowest rate of alcohol deaths, with 11.1 per 100,00 people, the highest rate was still in the north-east despite a decline in the last few years. However, all regions of England had significantly higher alcohol-specific death rates in 2017 versus 2001, with the exception of London which had its lowest rate for the first time since 2011.
This comes after the largest ever global investigation on the impact of drinking was published this Summer, when a Lancet report found that alcohol was the leading cause of premature death or illness in those aged 15-49. Taking data from 195 countries, they found that nine British women a day died from Liver disease in 2017, an increase of a third since 2001.
Concluding that ‘the level of alcohol consumption that minimised harm across health outcomes was zero,’ the report hammered the long-standing belief that alcohol in moderation is fine, and that a glass of wine a day can actually help you live longer.
As the festive season approaches, reports such as these are causing more people than ever to pause and address their alcohol consumption. With damning evidence such as this, it’s clear that Christmas isn’t the valid excuse it once was for drinking in excess, in fact, there are no longer any excuses.
And Karen Tyrell, executive director of external affairs at the drug and alcohol charity Addaction, has advised we all reconsider the way in which we talk about alcohol, especially given that the largest group affected by alcohol-related deaths are over-50s.
'We know alcohol is an issue for over-50s and we need to do a lot more to reach this group in a way that works for them. For older drinkers, alcohol often creeps up and gradually plays a more central role in day-to-day life, she said, 'The people we work with frequently talk about alcohol as a way to deal with loneliness, isolation, and the sense of loss that sometimes comes with retirement and move into a new phase of life.'
Holding the alcohol industry to account, she wants to increase minimum unit pricing and restrict advertising and visibility as they are the 'big drivers in terms of behaviour change'.