The release of 2011's alcohol statistics report from the NHS Information Centre has prompted several newspaper reports.
The report found that in England in 2009/10:
•There were 1,057,000 alcohol-related admissions to hospital. This was an increase of 12% on the 2008/09 figure, and more than twice as many as in 2002/03.
•Most (63%) of alcohol-related admissions were men. There were more admissions in the older age groups than in the younger age groups, in both men and women.
•When the researchers looked at the rate of admissions and standardised the figures for gender and age, they found that the rates of alcohol-related admissions varied across different Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs). The rate ranged from 1,223 admissions per 100,000 of the population in the South Central SHA (this includes Southampton and Oxford), to 2,406 and 2,295 admissions per 100,000 in the North East SHA (around Newcastle) and the North West SHA (Manchester and Liverpool), respectively.
The NHS Information Centre also reported on deaths related to alcohol. It said that in 2009, there were 6,584 deaths directly related to alcohol. This was a 3% decrease from the 2008 figure but an increase of 20% on the 2001 figure. Of these alcohol-related deaths, the majority of people (4,154 people) died from alcoholic liver disease.
•Among adults aged over 16, just over two-thirds of men and half of women reported drinking an alcoholic drink on at least one day in the week before they were interviewed. A tenth of men and 6% of women reported drinking every day in the previous week.
•Over a third of men drank over four units on at least one day in the week prior to interview and 29% of women drank more than three units at least one day in the week prior to interview (that is, more than the daily maximum levels recommended by the government). A fifth of men reported drinking over eight units and 13% of women reported drinking over six units on at least one day in the week prior to interview.
•Average weekly alcohol consumption was 16.4 units for men and 8.0 units for women.
•Just over a quarter of men reported drinking more than 21 units in an average week. For women, 18% reported drinking more than 14 units in an average week.
•The overall volume of alcoholic drinks purchased for consumption outside the home decreased from 733millilitres (ml) of alcohol for each person a week in 2001/02 to 446ml for each person a week in 2009. This reduction is mainly due to a 45% decrease in the volume of beer purchases.
•In 2007 (the last date for which figures are available), 33% of men and 16% of women were classified as hazardous drinkers. This included 6% of men and 2% of women estimated to be harmful drinkers.
•Among adults aged 16 to 74, 9% of men and 4% of women showed some signs of alcohol dependence.
•The prevalence of alcohol dependence was slightly lower for men than it was in 2000, when 11.5% of men showed some signs of dependence. In children aged 11 to 15 in England in 2009, the results showed some improvement:
•Eighteen percent of secondary school pupils aged 11 to 15 reported drinking alcohol in the week prior to interview, compared with 26% in 2001.
•Around half of pupils had ever had an alcoholic drink,
•Those pupils who had drunk in the last week consumed an average of 11.6 units
The NHS report also looked at the treatment of alcohol dependency in the NHS in England. It found that:
•In 2010, there were 160,181 prescription items for drugs for the treatment of alcohol dependency prescribed in primary care settings or NHS hospitals, and dispensed in the community. This was an increase of 6% on the amount prescribed in 2009 and an increase of 56% on the amount prescribed in 2003.
•The net cost of these prescription items was £2.41 million in 2010. This was an increase of 1.4% on the cost in 2009 and an increase of 40% on the cost in 2003.
These figures are worrying. I am strongly behind moves to raise the price of alcohol. Experience with tobacco suggests that raising the price is an efficient wasy of reducing consumption.