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alcohol health alliance uk

Record year for alcohol deaths highlights crisis of harm

Government urged to increase alcohol duty ahead of budget

Government urged to increase alcohol duty ahead of budget

Posted 07/05/21

Balance is calling on the Government to halt a crisis of alcohol harm as new figures showed alcohol related deaths in England hit a record high during 2020 amid the pandemic, with the worst rates in the country in the North East.

An Office for National Statistics report has revealed there were 7,423 deaths linked to drinking last year, which was a fifth more than in 2019 and the highest number since records began in 2001.

In the North East death rates from alcohol rose from 16.6 per 100,000 people in 2019 to 20.0 per 100,000 people in 2020 – a rise of around 20.5%.

Alcohol specific deaths rose quickly from April 2020 as the pandemic resulted in the first national lockdown. Most deaths were related to long-term drinking problems and dependency – with alcoholic liver disease making up 80 per cent of cases. Men living in the most deprived areas were four times more likely to die from alcohol than men living in the most affluent areas.

Sue Taylor, Acting Head of Alcohol Policy for Balance, said: “We need urgent action now from the Government to halt this crisis of alcohol harm, which started long before the pandemic but which has worsened in the last 12 months.

“As with COVID, the bulk of alcohol harm falls on the most deprived people in our communities and this is particularly worrying in the North East where, even before COVID, we already suffered from the highest rates of alcohol-related death and illness in England.

“Every single death is a life lost too soon and a grieving family left behind. But these horrifying figures are only the start – the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on addiction and mental health makes action now all the more critical.

“As alcohol has got cheaper, the harm to individuals and communities has got worse. It is scandal that people can drink a week’s worth of alcohol for the price of a coffee. We need a new national alcohol strategy which tackles the cheapest strongest alcohol, restricts promotion and availability and funds treatment, to bring an end to the rising burden of alcohol-harm and death.

“We should stop listening to alcohol companies when it comes to alcohol policy in this country, and listen more to the doctors and medics who see this on their wards every day.”