Hello and welcome to the Alcohol Alert, brought to you by The Institute of Alcohol Studies.
In this edition:
Public Health England releases a report that shows the shocking death statistics from alcohol in 2020, particularly due to alcoholic liver disease
A Lancet study shows the huge number of cancer cases caused by alcohol across the world 🎵 Podcast feature 🎵
An aspirational alcohol and cancer risk campaign launched in Australia 🎵 Podcast feature 🎵
A study suggests early football matches lead to more drinking and subsequently more domestic violence
The South African alcohol industry continues to battle the bans
New handbook released refuting the 7 main industry arguments
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Consumption, hospital admissions and mortality: Public Health England report on alcohol during the pandemic
Public Health England (PHE) released a report entitled ‘Monitoring alcohol consumption and harm during the COVID-19 pandemic’ on 15 July, which highlights the increase in alcohol harm during 2020.
What it says about alcohol consumption
With a shift from on-trade alcohol sales to home drinking, off-trade sales increased by 25% from 2019. The largest increase was beer sales, at a 31% increase, however all types of alcohol sales rose:
Volume sales increase by alcohol type:
With the heaviest 20% of drinkers accounting for 42% of the increase in purchasing, the report states that “This may present a risk that alcohol harm persists or worsens among people already at risk of experiencing harm”.
PHE suggests that drinking patterns were polarised, with most people drinking the same as before the pandemic, and similar proportions of people drinking less and more.
How did this affect hospital admissions?
Admissions due to alcohol highlight the complexities around access to healthcare during the pandemic. Although unplanned admissions decreased by 3.2%, that does not suggest a reduction in harm. Instead, it is likely due to the ‘lockdown effect’ of people wanting to ease pressure on the NHS and also being fearful of catching COVID in hospital.
Whereas admissions due to alcohol-related mental and behavioural disorders fell, unplanned admissions for alcoholic liver disease increased by 13.5%.
The impact on mortality
This increase in alcoholic liver disease admissions led to a dramatic 20% increase in alcohol-specific deaths, with 33% of deaths being among the most deprived societal group.
Despite hospital admissions for mental and behavioural disorders seeing a drop, there was a 10.8% increase in deaths from these disorders caused by alcohol. Alcohol poisoning deaths also saw an increase – of 15.4%.
Dr Katherine Severi, Chief Executive, Institute of Alcohol Studies, said:
“The evidence to support policy action is clear: tackling ultra-cheap alcohol through minimum unit pricing (MUP) and alcohol duty reforms will save lives and reduce costs for the NHS. Scotland has already witnessed a reduction in alcohol-specific deaths following the introduction of MUP in 2018, and with Wales adopting this measure it makes no sense for England to be left behind.”
“We also need to see better information provided to consumers about the health risks linked to alcohol, including the risk of breast and bowel cancer. The Chief Medical Officers’ low risk drinking guidelines must be present on all alcohol labels and adverts, to ensure the public are fully-equipped to make informed decisions about their drinking.”
The authors of the report concluded that:
“Tackling alcohol consumption and harm must be an essential part of the UK government’s COVID-19 recovery pl