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The burden of alcohol related disease

A recent report from the NHS Confederation and the Royal College of Physicians examines the growing cost to the NHS of treating people with alcohol-related diseases. The report was also covered by the BBC News. One of the important complications of excessive alcohol intake is liver disease.

In a paper published in 2008 in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, along with colleagues from St.Georges Hospital and the Office for National Statistics, I examined trends in hospital admissions and mortality in England from chronic liver disease. Hospital admission rates for chronic liver disease increased by 71% in males and 43% in females between 1989 to 2003. This increase was largely due to alcoholic liver disease, admission rates for which more than doubled between 1989/1990 and 2002/2003. Mortality rates for chronic liver disease more than doubled between 1979 and 2005 with two thirds of these deaths attributable to alcohol-related liver disease in 2005. The highest rate of alcoholic liver disease mortality was in the 45-64 age group, and the largest percentage increase between 1979 and 2005 occurred in the 25-34 age group.

Our study confirmed that hospital admissions and mortality in England from chronic liver disease are increasing. The underlying reasons are complex, but alcohol-induced liver disease makes a major contribution. There are clear social and health implications if the trend continues and addressing alcohol-related liver disease is a public health priority.

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