Liver disease is now the biggest cause of death in those aged between 35-49 years old, new report reveals

Posted on: 17th June 2019

New analysis of data of deaths in England and Wales released by the British Liver Trust has revealed that liver disease is the biggest cause of death among 35 to 49-year olds in the UK.

In 2017, 998 men and women aged between 35 and 49 died from liver disease, which represented 10% of all deaths in this age group; greater than deaths from suicide, heart disease and breast cancer.

The alarming impact of liver disease; launched today to coincide with Love Your Liver week presents the latest statistics on liver disease and liver cancer in the UK. The British Liver Trust report pulls together data from over two hundred sources and highlights the scale of the liver disease crisis affecting the UK. Other  alarming facts highlighted in the report include:

  • Liver disease is expected to overtake heart disease as the biggest cause of premature death in the next few years.
  • Over the past decade, liver cancer has increased by almost two-thirds (63%) in the UK.[i]
  • People who live in more deprived areas are up to six times more likely to die from alcohol-related liver disease than those who live in wealthier areas.
  • It’s estimated that 1 in 3 people have early-stage non-alcohol related fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and that 20% of these will go on to develop the more serious form which can lead to cirrhosis

More than 90% of liver disease is due to three main risk factors: obesity, alcohol and viral hepatitis.

Liver problems develop silently with no obvious symptoms in the early stages yet if caught early, the disease can be reversed through lifestyle changes.   More than three-quarters of people with cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver only find out when admitted to Accident and Emergency. By this time it is often too late and the charity is calling for more awareness and screening in the community.

Pamela Healy, Chief Executive, British Liver Trust said, “We are facing a liver disease epidemic in the UK. Helping people understand how to reduce their risk of liver damage is vital to address the increase in deaths from liver disease. Although the liver is remarkably resilient, if left too late damage is often irreversible. I would urge everyone to take our online screener on our website to see if they are at risk.”

Professor Steve Ryder, medical advisor to the Trust and consultant physician at Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust said, “The increase in deaths from liver disease is in stark contrast to other major killer disease such as heart disease and many other cancers where the numbers of deaths have remained stable or decreased. A lack of awareness together with the stigma that surrounds it means that liver disease is consistently overlooked and underfunded.”

The British Liver Trust’s Love Your Liver campaign aims to reach the one in five people in the UK who may have the early stages of liver disease, but are unaware of it. It focuses on three simple steps to Love Your Liver back to health and reduce your risk:

  • Drink within recommended limits and have three consecutive alcohol-free days every week
  • Eat a balanced healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight and take more exercise
  • Know the risk factors for viral hepatitis and get tested if at risk. There are now very effective cures for hepatitis c.

Find out if you are at risk of liver disease in a few minutes by taking the British Liver Trust’s online quiz. Take the British Liver Trust’s screener here: