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Alcohol-related deaths increase for second year running, including 6% jump for women

The Office for National Statistics has released a provisional estimate of the number of alcohol-related deaths in the UK in 2014.

According to the figures, alcohol-related deaths have increased for the second year running, reaching 8,697. Overall the number of deaths has increased by 3%. For men it has increased by 2% and for women by 6%.

This also represents almost a doubling of alcohol-related deaths since 1994. According to the ONS, in 1994 there were 4,525 alcohol-related deaths.

An analysis of the data also reveals that the age group with the highest rate of deaths has also fallen. In 1994, the age group with the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths was 65 – 69 for both men and women. In 2014, the age group with the highest rate of deaths for men was 60 – 64, and 55 – 59 for women.

True death figures likely to be three times as high as ONS figures show

It is also likely that the true number of alcohol-related deaths in the UK is up to three times as high as what is reported by the ONS. Department of Health-commissioned research has demonstrated that the number of alcohol-related deaths in 2013 in England was around three times greater than the figures from the ONS suggested in that year (22,481, compared with the ONS’s England figure of 6,592).

This is because ONS figures only relate to those deaths regarded as being most directly due to alcohol consumption. The figures do not include other diseases where alcohol has been shown to have a strong causal relationship, such as cancers of the mouth, oesophagus and liver and cases involving drink-driving, violence, and suicides.

Commenting on the figures, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, said:

Deaths from alcohol are increasing and the age at which people are killed by alcohol is falling. The UK Government says this is a public health priority, so why is the situation getting worse? It is because Government continues to duck the evidence, instead of bringing in effective policies to regulate the 24 hour availability of cheap, heavily marketed drink, particularly in our supermarkets and off-licences.

We also know that the ONS figures underestimate the true scale of the problem, and that alcohol has a role in many more deaths each year than the ONS figures suggest – the true figures are likely to be three times that reported by the ONS. The government and the ONS need to address this.