Why are alcohol-related deaths increasing everywhere except London?

Drinking to death

We're poorer, more depressed and have fewer opportunities outside London

7th November 2017

Alcohol-related deaths are increasing everywhere except (predictably) London, according to new figures.

Figure 5- Age-standardised rates of alcohol-specific deaths for males by region
Image: Office for National Statistics

Data released by the Office for National Statistics shows deprived areas are the hardest hit, with men from deprived areas 4.5 times more likely to have an alcohol-specific death than the least deprived areas. For women, it was 3.3 times.

London was the only English region that had fewer alcohol-specific deaths between 2001 and 2016.

James Nicholls, director of research and policy development at Alcohol Research UK/Alcohol Concern says one reason could be that London is home to more non-drinkers than any other region.

He adds: “The second is that alcohol-related deaths are proportionately far higher in deprived regions (even when consumption in those areas is less than in affluent areas).  The high rate of deaths in areas such as the North East is therefore probably due to a combination of higher overall consumption, higher rates of heavy or dependent drinking and, critically, higher rates of deprivation.”

Professor Thom Brooks, dean of the law school at Durham University, tells The Overtake the deaths could be linked to poor employment prospects in the regions compared with London.

Figure 6- Age-standardised rates of alcohol-specific deaths for females by region
Image: Office for National Statistics

He says: “I would suspect declining wages and reduced working opportunities for much of the country – coupled in a toxic cocktail (sorry) of reduced costs for buying alcohol in recent years – drives the rising alcohol-specific deaths in regions that have been stifled at best under post-global financial crash, recession and austerity, whereas London by all accounts has weathered the shifting economic waters best and so in a different position.”

Despite a reputation of binge drinking among young people, death rates were highest for people aged 55 to 64.

Dr. John Larsen, Drinkaware director of evidence and impact, adds that many people find it hard to change their drinking habits but “units can add up and have a long term effect on people’s long term health and wellbeing”.

“The Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines recommend that people do not regularly drink more than 14 units per week. If people do choose to drink that amount, they should do so evenly over three days or more.”

7th November 2017