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ticking time bomb
Russell Webster

Russell Webster

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

Alcohol culture has huge impact on NHS

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The 2015 statistics on Alcohol in England report a continuing reduction in our use and abuse of alcohol as a nation. However, it also makes very clear the unprecedented pressure that our over-use is putting on the health service with more and more hospital admissions linked to alcohol use and abuse.

The 2015 statistics on Alcohol in England (published 25 June by the Health and Social Care Information Centre) report a continuing reduction in our use and abuse of alcohol as a nation.

However, it also makes very clear the unprecedented pressure that our historical over-use is putting on the health service with more and more hospital admissions linked to alcohol use and abuse.

The good news

  • Abstinence up – more than one in five adults (21 per cent) said that they do not drink alcohol at all in 2013. This has increased slightly since 2005 (19 per cent). Young adults (aged 16 to 24) were primarily responsible for this change, with the proportion of young adults who reported that they do not drink alcohol at all increasing between 2005 and 2013.
  • Binge drinking down – the proportion of adults who binged a at least once in the week before interview decreased from 18 per cent in 2005 to 15 per cent in 2013. Young adults were mainly responsible for the decrease in binge drinking, with the proportion that had binged falling by more than a third since 2005, from 29 per cent to 18 per cent.
  • Fewer young people drinking – in 2013, 39 per cent of Alcohol 2015 coverpupils in years 7 to 11 said that they had drunk alcohol at least once. This continues the downward trend since 2003, when 61 per cent of pupils had drunk alcohol, and is lower than at any time since 1988, when the survey first measured the prevalence of drinking in this age group.
  • We’re spending less on alcohol – in real terms, between 2010 and 2013 household spending on food and drink fell by 3.2 per cent and eating out expenditure by 5.6 per cent. Household spending on alcoholic drinks fell by 5.7 per cent over the same period, whilst that bought for consumption outside the home fell by 13.4 per cent.

The bad news

  • Over one million alcohol-related hospital admissions – in 2013/14, there were an estimated 1,059,210 admissions related to alcohol consumption where an alcohol-related disease, injury or condition was the primary reason for hospital admission or a secondary diagnosis (broad measure). This is 5% more than 2012/13 and 115% more than 2003/04.
  • One third of a million alcohol-specific hospital admissions – in 2013/14, there were an estimated 333,010 admissions where the primary diagnosis or alcohol-related external causes recorded in secondary diagnosis fields were attributable to the consumption of alcohol (the narrow measure). This is 2% more than the previous year and 29% more than 2003/04
  • Alcohol-related deaths – in England, in 2013 there were 6,592 alcohol-related deaths, an increase of 1% on the previous year and 10% more than 2003.

Conclusion

You may feel, like me, that the phrase “this is a health ticking time bomb” is over-used.

In this case, I’m afraid it describes the situation perfectly.

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2 Responses

  1. The BMA urged ministers to embrace a comprehensive system of minimum unit pricing for alcohol, that has already been taken forward in Scotland, and improved labelling on alcohol products so that consumers understand the damage that might result from excessive consumption , as well as a crackdown on irresponsible marketing practices . Dr Martin McShane, NHS England’s director for patients with long-term conditions, said the rate of admissions and high number of fortysomethings represented a deeply worrying trend that we should all take heed of. Every day in the NHS we see the impact of excessive alcohol consumption.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Carol. MUP was a commitment in the government’ 2012 Alcohol Strategy which was later abandoned. The good news is that younger people are now drinking considerably less than previous generations but the impact of generations of abuse will be with us for many years to come.

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