Deaths Caused by Alcohol Abuse Continue to Rise

Studies from Great Britain in recent years show a worrying trend. Deaths related to alcohol use in that country have risen and are expected to continue climbing at a time when alcohol-related death rates in the rest of Europe have been dropping. A panel of British health and addiction experts reported that one out of every 25 deaths in Great Britain is attributable to alcohol use. That figure includes alcohol deaths through violence, accidents, cancers, stroke and suicide. It also includes deaths from liver disease, a leading killer for alcohol consumers.

According to the report by experts, liver disease deaths in Great Britain have doubled over the past 25 years. A quarter century ago, 4.9 persons in every 100,000 died from liver disease in England. Today, that figure is 11.4 out of every 100,000. In fact, as much as 70 percent of all alcohol connected deaths in Britain are from liver disease. The experts point out that this is especially troubling because the upward trend in the British Isles stands in stark contrast to a downward trend across Europe and other Commonwealth countries.

European alcohol-related deaths have been declining, particularly in France and Italy. That is likely in large part because of new national policies in those countries which discourage the sale of inexpensive liquor. European governments have taken a firm hand with alcohol policy and have seen dramatic positive impacts as a result. The British report calls for national leaders to take note and follow their example.

The peer-reviewed British report predicted that within twenty years another 250,000 citizens will die from alcohol abuse if nothing changes. It is time, they say, to respond to this health challenge with the same resolve with which former leaders faced tobacco use. Alcohol and tobacco are similar insofar as their use makes it far more likely that a person will contract another disease. This is called co-morbidity and it is a serious health risk.

British Department of Health officials responded to the article by saying they plan to intervene to control alcohol pricing as well as make it more difficult to obtain a liquor license. Keeping taxes on alcohol high should also help. Most observers believe that France’s tough marketing and pricing controls on alcohol are to be credited with the decline in the country’s alcohol problems.

So far, plans in Britain are to regulate marketing, especially eliminating the sale of inexpensive or below cost alcohol products. Coupled with a fixed tax rate on alcohol, the idea is to make drinking an expensive habit. This strategy has worked in Europe. Italy, for example, now boasts the lowest alcohol consumption rate of any other European country, and does so by keeping prices high.