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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

More people dying from alcohol

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New ONS stats show there were 7,697 alcohol-specific deaths in the UK last year, an age-standardised rate of 12.2 deaths per 100,000 population.

Last week (4 December 2018), the Office for National Statistics published its annual bulletin on Alcohol-specific deaths in the UK: which focuses on deaths registered in 2017. This bulletin focuses solely on deaths in the UK that are known to be direct consequences of alcohol misuse, such as alcoholic liver disease. It does not cover the much larger figure of alcohol-related deaths; as readers know, alcohol is implicated in a range of cancers and heart disease as well as pneumonia and fatal accidents.

There are 15 official conditions defined as being alcohol-specific deaths:

Main findings

These are the principal findings from the bulletin:

  • In 2017, there were 7,697 alcohol-specific deaths in the UK, an age-standardised rate of 12.2 deaths per 100,000 population.

  • For the UK, alcohol-specific death rates have increased in recent years to similar rates observed in 2008 where they were at the highest recorded.

  • Since the beginning of the time series in 2001, rates of alcohol-specific deaths among males have been more than double those observed among females (16.8 and 8.0 deaths per 100,000 in 2017 respectively).

  • In 2017, alcohol-specific death rates were highest among 55- to 59-year-old females and 60- to 64-year-old males.
  • Scotland remains the constituent country with the highest rate of alcohol-specific deaths in 2017; yet Scotland was the only country to experience a statistically significant decrease in rates from 2001.

Other key findings

More detailed findings include: 

  • The rate of alcohol-specific deaths among females in 2017 was the highest rate on record although still only half the rate for men. Alcohol-specific deaths among females in 2017 reached the highest rate (8.0 deaths per 100,000 females) since the time series began in 2001, comparable with the highest rate last seen in 2008. Alcohol-specific death rates among males continue to be at least double the rates among females, with 16.8 deaths per 100,000 males recorded in 2017 – the highest since 2010, which saw an equivalent rate.
  • Alcohol-specific death rates in 2017 were highest among 60- to 64-year-olds. There have been statistically significant increases in age-specific death rates for 55- to 79-year-olds from 2001 to 2017. The rate among 60- to 64-year-olds has increased to become the highest in the UK (29.7 deaths per 100,000 people in 2017), overtaking that among 50- to 54-year-olds, the group which had the highest rate in 2001 (25.1 deaths per 100,000 people).
  • Scotland is the only UK country to see a statistically significant decrease in rates since 2001. Scotland has had the highest alcohol-specific death rate in the UK, for all persons, since the time series began in 2001, while England has had the lowest. The rate in Scotland in 2017 was 20.5 deaths per 100,000 people, while in England it was 11.1 deaths per 100,000 people. The alcohol-specific death rates in Wales and Northern Ireland in 2017 were 13.5 and 17.4 deaths per 100,000 people respectively. Alcohol-specific death rates in England, Northern Ireland and Wales were all significantly higher in 2017 compared with 2001 – the largest difference being a 40% increase in Northern Ireland. In Scotland, the 2017 rate was significantly lower than in 2001, with a 21% reduction.
  • Alcohol-specific death rate highest in the North East in 2017. The rate of alcohol-specific deaths in 2017 was highest in the North East region (15.5 deaths per 100,000 people), despite the rate falling since 2014. London had the lowest rate (7.8 deaths per 100,000 people) of any region for the first time since 2011. With the exception of London, all regions have significantly higher alcohol-specific rates in 2017 than in 2001. The same geographical patterns were seen for both sexes. [Further data that address the association between alcohol-specific death rates and socio-economic deprivation in England can be found in the ONS’ accompanying supplementary datasets.]
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