Alcohol deaths in UK hit new high after record increase

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Deaths in the UK caused directly by alcohol hit a new high in 2020 after the biggest year-on-year increase since records began, figures show.

A total of 8,974 deaths related to alcohol-specific causes were registered in the UK last year, or 14.0 deaths per 100,000 people.

This is up 18.6% on the 7,565 deaths registered in 2019, or 11.8 per 100,000.

The rise was described as “statistically significant” by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which published the figures.
Alcohol-specific deaths in the UK
(PA Graphics)

There will be “many factors” behind the increase and “it may be some time before we fully understand all of these”, the ONS said.

The figures were described as “tragic” by Matt Lambert, chief executive officer of the Portman Group, the social responsibility and regulatory body for alcohol in the UK.

“The reasons for this increase in deaths are complex,” Mr Lambert said. “It may be that the pressures on people and services caused by the pandemic have exacerbated problems for those needing help. It is highly welcome that the Government has committed to a sizeable increase in funding that will support treatment for those drinking alcohol to harmful levels.”

David Fothergill, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “These stark statistics should act as a wake-up call about the impact of Covid-19 on our general health, including for those with alcohol-related conditions, such as reaching out to people who have not yet been in treatment.

“Councils, which are responsible for public health services, are committed to continue supporting everyone with alcohol and other substance misuse problems, despite ongoing pressures made worse by the pandemic.”

Separate data from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities has suggested levels of alcohol consumption in England have changed since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with periods of lockdown coinciding with a slight rise in the proportion of people drinking a high number of units of alcohol each week.