Alcohol-related deaths in Britain hit record high during pandemic – 16% rise in a year

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Alcohol-related deaths in England and Wales rose to a record high during 2020, according to the latest official statistics, writes Adam Forrest for The Independent. There was a shocking 16% increase in these deaths compared with the same nine-month period in 2019, likely pandemic related.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) noted that the increase in alcohol deaths in the period after the first coronavirus lockdown was imposed was “statistically significant”.

There were 5,460 deaths related to “alcohol-specific causes” between January and September last year, figures from the ONS show. According to The Independent, this marks a 16% increase compared with the same nine-month period in 2019.

The rate reached a peak of 12.8 deaths per 100,000 people in the first three months of 2020 and stayed at this level through to September – higher than in any other time since records began in 2001.

The ONS said rates between April and September – the months after strict, stay-at-home curbs on movement were introduced in a bid to control the pandemic – were statistically significantly higher than in any other year.

Ben Humberstone, ONS’s deputy director of health analysis and life events, said there had been a clear increase in alcohol deaths during the pandemic – but said it was too early to say exactly why this might be – The Independent story published on 2 February continues.

“Today’s data shows that in the first three quarters of 2020, alcohol-specific deaths in England and Wales reached the highest level since the beginning of our data series, with April to September, during and after the first lockdown, seeing higher rates compared to the same period in previous years,” said Humberstone.

“The reasons for this are complex and it will take time before the impact the pandemic has had on alcohol-specific deaths is fully understood.”

Yet experts told The Independent that the rise was probably linked to increased alcohol consumption during lockdown, and the “pause” in some vital treatment services during 2020.

Professor Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said the figures were “deeply worrying but sadly not unexpected”.

She said: “Surveys from earlier in the pandemic suggested that while some people had reduced their alcohol consumption or abstained during the ‘stay at home’ measures introduced in the spring of 2020, others were drinking more.”

Bauld added: “Heavier drinking over several weeks or months on top of existing alcohol harms will have contributed to this rise in deaths. In addition, vital services were paused in 2020 meaning that people who needed help with their drinking or treatment for an alcohol-related condition may not have received it, with fatal consequences for some.”

Consistent with previous years, rates of male alcohol-specific deaths were twice those of females.

Link to the full report in The Independent below.

 

Study details

Quarterly alcohol-specific deaths in England and Wales: 2001 to 2019 registrations and Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) to Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2020 provisional registrations

Quarterly rates and numbers of deaths caused by diseases are known to be a direct consequence of alcohol misuse. Includes 2001 to 2019 registrations and provisional registrations for Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) to Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2020.

Office for National Statistics

 

Main points

  • Provisional data for England and Wales show there were 5,460 deaths related to alcohol-specific causes registered in the first three quarters of 2020 (Jan to Sept), a 16.4% increase compared with the same nine-month period in 2019.
  • The alcohol-specific death rate reached its highest peak since the data time series began in 2001, of 12.8 deaths per 100,000 people (1,810 deaths registered) in Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) 2020 and it remained at this level in both Quarter 2 (Apr to June; 1,811 deaths registered) and Quarter 3 (July to Sept; 1,839 deaths registered).
  • When comparing the same quarter across the years, the rate in Quarter 1 2020 was statistically similar to rates in previous years, however, rates in Quarter 2 and Quarter 3 2020 were statistically significantly higher than in any other year back to 2001.
  • Consistent with previous years, rates of male alcohol-specific deaths were twice those of females; with rates ranging between 17.3 and 17.8 deaths per 100,000 males in 2020 compared with rates ranging between 8.0 and 8.6 deaths per 100,000 females.
  • Compared with the same period in 2019, rates were statistically significantly higher for persons aged 30 to 49 years in Quarter 2 2020 and for persons aged 40 to 69 years in Quarter 3 2020.
  • Compared with the same period in 2019, rates were statistically significantly higher in the North East and London in Quarter 2 2020 and in the South West in Quarter 3 2020.
  • The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had little impact on how long it has taken to register alcohol-specific deaths, the median delay continued to be six days in 2020, similar to previous years.

 

The Independent story – Alcohol-related deaths hit record high during pandemic, new statistics show (Open access)

 

Office for National Statistics – Quarterly alcohol-specific deaths in England and Wales: 2001 to 2019 registrations and Quarter 1 (Jan to Mar) to Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2020 provisional registrations (Open access)

 

SEE ALSO FROM MEDICALBRIEF’S ARCHIVES

 

A daily alcoholic drink and atrial fibrillation risk — Large 14-year study

 

How alcohol may affect responses to the COVID-19 vaccine

 

BMJ editorial – Lifetime perspective on alcohol and brain health

 

Yale: Repurposed drug eases recovery for those with severe alcohol withdrawal

 

 


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