Rise in number of people dying from alcohol

The number of people dying from alcohol is on the rise despite increasing awareness of the damage it can do, figures showed today.

The number of alcohol-related deaths has more than doubled since 1992, from 4,023 to 9,031 in 2008.

In the course of one year the figure has gone up 3.5 per cent, from 8,724 deaths in 2007.

Overall, rates have doubled since the early 1990s, from 6.7 per 100,000 population in 1992 to 13.6 per 100,000 in 2008.

Men are twice as likely to die from alcohol as women and the rate of male deaths has more than doubled since 1991, from 9.1 per 100,000 to 18.7 per 100,000 in 2008.

This is despite increasing awareness of daily drinking guidelines and the health effects of alcohol, according to the report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Other data on drinking habits showed one in five men (20 per cent) and one in seven women (14 per cent) aged 65 and over drink every day compared with 1 per cent of those aged 16 to 24.

Overall, 39 per cent of men and 31 per cent of women exceed the daily sensible drinking limit of three to four units a day for men and two to three units for women.

Asked where they drank on their most recent or heaviest drinking day, most people said they drank at home (46 per cent of men and 57 per cent of women).

When it comes to buying alcohol, people are most likely to have bought it in supermarkets in the last year (72 per cent), followed by bars (68 per cent) and restaurants (62 per cent).

The percentage of people who buy alcohol from an off-licence in the past year has fallen from 37 per cent in 1998 to 27 per cent in 2009, but has gone up slightly in restaurants (57 per cent to 62 per cent).

Another ONS survey found that people in managerial and professional jobs and households drink more than those in manual jobs (13.8 units compared with 10.6 units on average each week).

They were also more likely to have drunk alcohol on five or more days in the previous week than those in manual households.

Chris Sorek, chief executive of the charity Drinkaware, which is funded by the alcohol industry, said: "It's shocking to discover that alcohol-related deaths are again on the increase, and it's vital now, more than ever, that we act to reduce the harms caused by drinking too much.

"With more and more people dying from alcohol misuse it's essential we change people's relationship with drinking, and education has a key role to play.

"Male alcohol-related deaths have more than doubled in the last 17 years, but women also need to vigilant.

"Regularly exceeding the daily unit guidelines can increase everyone's chances of developing liver damage, heart disease and some cancers."

The statistics come as the Government launched a new health campaign on the dangers of drinking too much.

It shows the damage caused to internal organs by drinking more than recommended limits.

Public health minister Gillian Merron launched the advertising campaign, which is backed by charities Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and the Stroke Association.

A poll to mark the launch found 55 per cent of drinkers in England mistakenly think alcohol only damages health if people regularly get drunk or binge drink.

Although 86 per cent of drinkers surveyed knew that drinking alcohol is related to liver disease, fewer realised it is linked to breast cancer (7 per cent), throat cancer (25 per cent), mouth cancer (28 per cent), stroke (37 per cent) and heart disease (56 per cent).

Ms Merron said: "Many of us enjoy a drink - drinking sensibly isn't a problem.

"But, if you're regularly drinking more than the NHS recommended limits, you're more likely to get cancer, have a stroke or have a heart attack.

"With alcohol misuse damaging so many people's health and lives, the Government has teamed up with Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation and the Stroke Association to produce this straight-talking campaign.

"It's important to show drinkers the unseen damage alcohol can do to their body."

Chief medical officer for England, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson, said: "Over a quarter of the population regularly drink above the Government's recommended daily limits, with over two and half million adults regularly drinking above the higher-risk levels, putting their health at risk of serious diseases and conditions.

"It is important people realise the harm they, unknowingly, can cause to their health by regularly drinking more than the recommended daily limits."

Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said the figures showed a fall in overall alcohol consumption "and reflect changing consumer tastes around Europe with more people drinking at home and a preference for drinking alcohol with a meal in a restaurant.

"While we should be concerned by the rise in alcohol-related deaths, it's important to remember that overall alcohol consumption has been falling now for several years, suggesting Government efforts to combat alcohol misuse should be focused on the minority of people who drink excessively, not the vast majority who enjoy a drink in moderation."

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