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Alcoholic liver deaths up by 21% since start of Covid


Deaths caused by alcoholic liver disease have risen by 21 per cent during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Public Health England (PHE).

There has been an increase in total alcohol-specific deaths, driven by an “unprecedented” annual increase in alcoholic liver disease fatalities above levels seen pre-pandemic, research by the government agency has found.

According to the report, alcohol-specific deaths increased by 20 per cent in 2020 (from 5,819 in 2019 to 6,983) and alcoholic liver disease accounted for just over 80.3 per cent of all deaths in 2020.

There was a rapid increase in the number of alcoholic liver deaths, rising by 20.8 per cent between 2019 and 2020, compared to a rise of 2.9 per cent between 2018 and 2019.

This coincides with the total amount of alcohol released for sale during the pandemic remaining similar to pre-pandemic years despite pubs, clubs and restaurants closing for about 31 weeks during national lockdowns, suggesting people were drinking more at home.

Data from a consumer purchasing panel shows just over 12.6 million extra litres of alcohol were sold in shops and supermarkets in the financial year 2020 to 2021 compared to 2019 to 2020 – an increase of 24.4 per cent.

When adult buyers were spilt into five equal-sized groups based on their level of purchasing in the two years before the first lockdown, the heaviest buying group increased their buying by 5.3 million litres of alcohol compared to 2019 to 2020 – an increase of 14.3 per cent.

Other findings of the study, Alcohol consumption and harm during the Covid-19 pandemic, included deaths from mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol increasing by 10.8 per cent between 2019 and 2020 (compared to a 1.1 per cent increase between 2018 and 2019), but hospital admissions falling.

Deaths from alcohol poisoning also increased by 15.4 per cent between 2019 and 2020 (compared to a decrease of 4.5 per cent between 2018 and 2019), but hospital admissions were again down.

Thirty-three per cent of all alcohol-specific deaths occurred in the most deprived 20 per cent.