Alcohol-related illnesses reach a record high

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Alcohol-related health problems have reached record levels, with the number of hospital admissions running at double the number they were 10 years ago.

Government figures released yesterday showed deaths from alcoholic liver disease had also risen by 39 per cent in the past five years.

Charities said rising numbers of people from all age groups were drinking to excess and said the Government needed to do more to reduce alcohol consumption.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics, which was compiled for the NHS, found that 35,400 people were admitted to hospital with a diagnosis of alcoholic liver disease last year compared with a total of 14,400 admissions in 1995. More than 4,000 people died as a result of excessive drinking last year.

More than 126,000 were also admitted for in-patient care for mental health problems linked to excess drinking, a 75 per cent increase in 10 years.

A further 21,700 people were admitted to hospital with alcoholic poisoning as a result of binge-drinking, the report found.

Professor Denise Lievesley, chief executive of the government-run Information Centre which released the report, said: "This report shows that we cannot underestimate the effect of alcohol on health.

"By presenting this data we hope that health professionals will be better equipped to put their work in context and to raise awareness of the dangers of alcohol misuse."

The average Briton drinks 10.39 litres of pure alcohol a year, putting the UK near the middle of a European Union league table on drink consumption.

But alcohol misuse starts early in Britain, the report warned.

Almost one in four children aged between 11 and 15 have admitted to having an alcoholic drink in the week before the survey.

Among those youngsters who had a drink, the average consumption was 10 units - double the amount children were drinking 10 years ago. Alcohol misuse among all age groups is estimated to cost the NHS £1.7bn a year.

A spokeswoman for the charity Alcohol Concern said: "The publication of this latest set of statistics on alcohol presents compelling evidence of the devastating impact of excess drinking on the nation's health.

"In 2004, the Government laid out a national strategy for tackling alcohol misuse. These statistics underline the need for a major push for the Government to meet the targets it set itself."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said yesterday: "We know that alcohol misuse has a devastating effect on millions of lives each year and that is why we are working with the drinks industry, police and health professionals to increase awareness of the dangers of excessive drinking and make the sensible drinking message easier to understand.

"We will also be launching a joint campaign with the Home Office later this year to promote sensible drinking amongst young people."

She said the Government was spending more than £200m a year on treating people with alcohol problems.

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