The British Liver Trust calls for immediate action as new data released today confirms that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the UK’s liver disease epidemic.
New ONS figures reveal that 6,985 people died from alcohol-related liver disease in 2020, an increase of 20% from 2019.
“This new data confirms our fears that the increase in alcohol consumption and the disruption to alcohol support services during the pandemic has sadly led to thousands more deaths from alcohol-related liver disease,” said Vanessa Hebditch, Director of Policy at the British Liver Trust.
Following lockdown In March 2020, supermarkets saw their sales of alcohol jump by 50% on the previous period and alcohol support services were significantly reduced.
Vanessa continues, “This must serve as a wake-up call to the Government that the UK urgently needs a joined-up plan to address the liver disease crisis as the UK recovers from Covid. They also need to tackle the affordability and acceptability of alcohol in our society.
“Drinking alcohol to excess is the leading cause of liver disease in the UK. A common myth is that you have to be an ‘alcoholic’ to damage your liver. The truth is that more than one in five people in the UK currently drink alcohol in way that could harm their liver.”
Although there are many causes of liver disease, in the UK excess alcohol consumption is the most common cause, accounting for around 60% of all cases. There are often no symptoms of alcohol-related liver disease in the early stages, and when symptoms do appear they can be vague, such as feeling tired and a loss of appetite. Unfortunately, this means that in many cases alcohol-related liver disease is only diagnosed at a later stage when significant damage has already been done and treatment options are limited.