Recently released statistics indicate that while total alcohol consumption has decreased in the UK hospital admissions and illnesses related to alcohol are at an all time high. What explains these seemingly contradictory figures?Recently released statistics concerning alcohol related hospital admissions and the number of young people with liver problems are at an all time high. The figures seem to have soared. According to research by the North West Public Health Observatory, more than a million alcohol related cases were admitted to hospital this past year - an increase of 11% on the previous year’s figures.
Cases rise but consumption falls
These statistics cover both illness and injury where alcohol is deemed to be a major cause. When looking back at the same statistics for 2003 it is quite startling that the figures have actually doubled. There is a slight paradox in the fact that over the last quarter alcohol consumption appears to have fallen. The explanation for this is binge drinking is increasing amongst a minority of people. However there has been a consistent rise in the overall figures over the last nine years. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said “These figures are disturbing evidence that, despite total consumption of alcohol not increasing, we have serious problems with both binge drinking and long-term excessive alcohol abuse in a minority of people.” The government’s policy of bringing in minimum cost for alcohol, and placing high tax on extra strong beers and ciders seems to make perfect sense.
Increased liver damage in young people
Perhaps one of the most worrying concerns from these statistics is how young people are being affected by the out of control drink culture. This research quite clearly shows that there has been a huge increase in the number of young adults treated in hospital for serious liver problems brought on by excessive drinking. Liver disease in young people used to be quite rare but has increased as drinking habits have changed. Demographically, the area to show the greatest increase in these figures is the North East. Reviewing these statistics experts tended to agree that the law does not protect young people enough and that it was time to make quite drastic changes.
Dr Chris Record, a liver specialist at Newcastle University said "The earlier the age at which children drink, and the more they drink, the greater the chance of developing serious liver disease in adult life. Many patients are now presenting with terminal liver disease in their late 20s and early 30s", he said, “The number of young people having their lives ruined by alcohol means the legal age for consuming alcohol may need to rise from 5 to 15”