This week, the British Liver Trust will join 2,000 other community groups to highlight the impact that alcohol can have on our bodies, our lives and those we love for Alcohol Awareness Week.
Events are being run by local authorities, workplaces, charities, GP surgeries, pharmacies and hospitals and other groups.
Understanding the risks of drinking too much is an important first step in helping us drink more healthily. Yet estimates show that 84% of people are unaware of the official low-risk drinking guidelines (1), meaning that the vast majority do not have the information they need to make informed choices about their drinking.
The national picture on alcohol-related harm shows:
- Each year, alcohol is a factor in the deaths of 24,000 people in the UK (2). And is the biggest risk factor for deaths among 15-49 year olds (3).
- Hospital admissions due to alcoholic liver disease in England have increased by 43% in the last 10 years (4).
- In England there are an estimated 589,101 dependent drinkers and less than 20% are receiving treatment. (5)
- Around 200,000 children in England are living with an alcohol-dependent parent or carer which can have lifelong negative effects on their health and wellbeing. (6)
- Each year alcohol misuse is estimated to cost the NHS £3.5 billion (7), and an estimated 167,000 years of working life are lost as a result of alcohol. (8)
Mortality rates from liver disease have increased 400% since 1970
Alcohol Awareness Week aims to get people thinking and talking about alcohol, to motivate change at every level – individual, community and national.
Pamela Healy, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust, says: “As a nation, we have a toxic relationship with alcohol. Drinking alcohol is the cause of around 60% of cases of liver disease in the UK. Mortality rates from liver disease have increased 400% since 1970. Shockingly, in people younger than 65, mortality rates due to the disease have increased fivefold.
“Many people believe that you have to be an alcoholic to damage your liver but this simply isn’t true. Alcohol dependency is a spectrum and more than one in five people in the UK currently drink alcohol in way that could harm their liver.
“Fortunately, by making a few lifestyle changes such as drinking no more than 14 units a week, having three consecutive days each week without alcohol, eating a healthy diet and getting checked for hepatitis if you’re at risk, many people can reduce their risk of developing liver disease before it’s too late.”
Dr Richard Piper, Chief Executive of Alcohol Change UK, said:
“It can be easy to slip into bad habits with our drinking. But small changes can make a big difference to our health.
“Alcohol harm is avoidable and yet it still remains a factor in the death of three people every hour. This has to change. As well as the harm caused to individuals, alcohol can also have a significant adverse effect on those around us, including the 200,000 children in England who are living with an alcohol-dependent parent.
“So this year’s Alcohol Awareness Week is all about helping people to better understand the risks of drinking and providing advice on how we can change our drinking behaviour for the better. This can be as simple as being sure to have a few drink-free days each week, deliberately choosing the lowest strength drinks, making every other drink a non-alcoholic one, or downloading an app, for example Try Dry, to track your drinking and keep you motivated.”
- Alcohol Health Alliance UK (2018). News release on poll of 2,000 people across the UK carried out by national polling company OnePoll on behalf of the AHA.
- Office for National Statistics (2018). Alcohol-specific deaths in the UK: registered in 2017.
- Public Health England. The Public Health Burden of Alcohol and the Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Alcohol Control Policies: An Evidence Review.
- Public Health England (2019). Local Alcohol Profiles for England. Alcohol-related NHS hospital admissions in England.
- Public Health England (2018). Public Health Dashboard.
- Public Health England (2017). Estimates of alcohol dependent adults and alcohol dependent adults living with children.
- House of Commons Health Committee (2012), Government’s Alcohol Strategy.
- Public Health England (2016). The Public Health Burden of Alcohol and the Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Alcohol Control Policies: An Evidence Review.