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Record levels of alcohol illness


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Drink-related hospital admissions in England have reached record levels, NHS statistics show.

Hospital admissions for alcoholic liver disease more than doubled in a decade, reaching 35,400 in 2004/5. Alcoholic liver disease deaths increased by 37%.


Admissions for alcoholic poisoning increased to 21,700 from 13,600 over the same 10-year period.


The Information Centre report also highlights England's binge and underage drinking problem.


Nearly one in four secondary school children aged 11-15 reported that they had drunk alcohol in the past week when surveyed in 2005.


The average amount of alcohol consumed by this age group doubled between 1990 and 2000 and currently remains at 10.4 units (or about 10 small glasses of wine or five pints of beer) per week.


Young adults are the most likely to binge drink - a third of men and a quarter of women aged 16-24 said they had drunk more than double the recommended number of units on one day of the previous week, typically Saturday, when surveyed in 2004.


Rising consumption


In comparison, older adults, aged 45-64, are more likely to drink smaller amounts regularly, on five or more days of the week.


The report also looked at the alcohol consumption levels of the European Union countries, with the UK's four home nations ranked as a group.


Although high, the UK's consumption levels ranked middle against other European Union countries in 2001. Luxembourg topped the table, with its residents drinking an average 17.54 litres per capita per year compared to the UK's 10.39 litres.


But unlike other countries in Europe, the UK's alcohol consumption is still rising. There are serious concerns about the impact of this across the UK.


Professor Denise Lievesley, Chief Executive of The Information Centre, said it was important not to 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," she said.


Anne Jenkins of Alcohol Concern said the statistics presented "compelling evidence of the devastating impact of excess drinking on the nation's health."


She added: "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."




Professor Ian Gilmore of the Royal College of Physicians said: "Whilst today's figures are shocking they are not really surprising."


He questioned whether current measures to reduce alcohol misuse were enough.


"There is going to be a need for regulation. The drivers of alcohol-related health problems are price and availability."


He said alcohol was too inexpensive and readily available in supermarkets around the clock.


A Department of Health spokesperson said: "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."


Shadow Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, said the figures were deeply concerning. "The government's failure to adequately address binge drinking, and ill-thought though 24 hour licensing policy will do nothing to help the situation," he added


"The government must start to prioritise public health and not cut back on rolling out programmes because of deficit problems."



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