Quarter of British adults risk health for alcohol

Many are drinking in quantities that are harmful

A quarter of adults are drinking in quantities that are hazardous to their health, with more than 850,000 people needing hospital treatment for alcohol-related problems in a year, latest figures show.

One in three men and one in six women are at risk of physical and psychological harm as a result of their drinking habits, according to the annual NHS Information Centre report on alcohol consumption – Statistics on Alcohol: England 2009.

The number of people admitted to hospital in England with alcohol-related problems has risen by 69 per cent in five years, to 863,000 in 2007-08, although changes to data collection — which now include secondary diagnoses, such as alcohol-related injuries — have contributed to the surge in cases. Two thirds of the admissions were men.

The cost to the NHS of supplying drugs for the treatment of alcohol dependency is £2.4 million, up 39 per cent on 2003.

There were were 6,541 deaths directly related to alcohol in 2007, an increase of 19 per cent since 2001. The majority of these, 4,249, were due to liver disease.

The report will increase pressure on the Government to take action to curb excessive drinking. Earlier this year Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer for England, warned that easy access to cheap alcohol was ‘killing us as never before’ and must be curbed with tough licensing laws, price rises and a shift in public opinion.

Tim Straughan, the chief executive of the NHS Information Centre, said that the repercussions of heavy drinking for the health service must be acknowledged fully. ‘The report shows a significant amount of people are at risk of actual harm to themselves, which in turn results in more work for the NHS,’ he said.

Andrew Lansley, the Conservative health spokesman, said: ‘These figures demonstrate Labour’s complete failure to tackle the growing problems caused by alcohol abuse.’

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