Substantial Increase in Death Rates from Alcohol-Related Diseases in the U.K.

A new study has found that there has been a substantial increase in death rates from alcohol-related diseases in socioeconomically deprived areas of England and Wales. Researchers at the University of Sheffield published the findings in the journal BMC Public Health.

Deaths in the U.K. from alcohol-related diseases such as liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, and gastritis are increasing, despite attempts to inform the public of the dangers of binge drinking. Science Daily reports that the researchers wanted to identify individuals who were most likely to die from an alcohol-related cause in an attempt to aid the future allocation of resources and policies aimed to reduce alcohol abuse.

After studying the deaths of 18,716 men and 10, 123 women from 1999 to 2003, they found that the mortality rates of men and women in the most deprived areas of England and Wales were over four times the rates in less deprived areas. The results contradict a number of previous surveys which have consistently maintained that there is no excess alcohol consumption in more socioeconomically deprived groups.

The study also found that people living in urban areas experienced higher alcohol-related mortality when compared with those living in rural areas. Urban areas accounted for approximately 80% of the total population analyzed and 85% of all alcohol-related deaths, while villages accounted for approximately 9% of the population and 6% of alcohol-related deaths.

They found that mortality rates increased with age, peaking in middle-aged adults before declining in older adults. The 45-64 age group accounted for half of the alcohol-related deaths, but contained only a quarter of the total population included in the analysis.

The study found a strong link between alcohol-related deaths and socioeconomic deprivation, with progressively higher rates in more deprived areas. The most socioeconomically deprived 20% of the population of England and Wales accounted for 32% of alcohol-related deaths in men and 26% of alcohol-related deaths in women while the least deprived 20% of the population accounted for 11% of male and 14% of female alcohol-related deaths. The greatest socioeconomic inequalities were seen in the 25-44 year age group.

Dr. Ravi Maheswaran, from the School of Health and Related Research at the University of Sheffield, and one of the authors on the study, said: “Deaths from alcohol-related causes represent one extreme of the physical harm caused by alcohol. This study highlights the large inequalities in alcohol-related mortality which exist between different socioeconomic areas of the UK. These differences should be taken into account when designing public health policies to reduce alcohol-related harm.”

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