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Stark warning as drink-related deaths doubled in last 20 years

By Allan Preston

Published 03/02/2016

Alcohol-related deaths in Northern Ireland have doubled in the last 20 years, according to a new study. Picture posed
Alcohol-related deaths in Northern Ireland have doubled in the last 20 years, according to a new study. Picture posed

Alcohol-related deaths in Northern Ireland have doubled in the last 20 years, according to a new study.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that in 2014 there were 8,967 alcohol-related deaths registered in the UK.

Scotland reported the highest numbers for both men and women, followed by Northern Ireland.

According to the ONS, for every 100,000 people in Northern Ireland, 20.3 people died due to alcohol in 2014.

This is twice the figure recorded in 1994 of 11.7.

However the alcohol-related death rate in 2014 wasn't the worst, and there has in fact been a decline in recent years.

The peak came in 2007, with 26.5 deaths per 100,000. It was also established that the majority of deaths (65%) were still among men and that the worst affected age group in 2014 was 55-64 year-olds.

For women in Northern Ireland the average rate has remained largely steady over the last 20 years.

In 2014, 8.5 women per 100,000 died due to alcohol related deaths compared to 7.2 in 1994.

In January, the Belfast Telegraph reported that in 2013 alone, 236 people in Northern Ireland were registered as having died from an alcohol-related death - 172 men and 64 women.

Yesterday the Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Sally Davies, said people needed to weigh up the risk they were taking every time they had a drink.

Making the comments at a science and technology committee at Westminster she said: "I would like people to make their choice knowing the issues and do as I do when I reach for my glass of wine and think, 'Do I want my glass of wine or do I want to raise my risk of breast cancer?'."

Her comments were echoed earlier this year by the Chief Medical officer for Northern Ireland who issued new guidelines for alcohol consumption.

Dr Michael McBride overturned official advice from 1995 after new evidence emerged showing the increased risk of developing cancer because of drinking as well as the harm of binge drinking.

Speaking at the start of January he said: "Many people drink alcohol, and most do so in ways that do not significantly put them at risk of alcohol related harm, but new evidence has emerged on the potential risks and benefits from alcohol consumption."

The new advice covered three areas: weekly consumption, single episodes of drinking and drinking while pregnant.

Dr McBride said there was no proof to show any safe level of alcohol during pregnancy.

Men were advised to cut their weekly amount down from 21 units to 14 which for the first time is the same limit for women.

Tom Smith, director of campaigns at charity Alcohol Concern, said: "These latest figures show that alcohol-related deaths are back on the rise and have almost doubled in the last 20 years.

"The figures also highlight the dangers of middle-aged drinking, with the highest number of alcohol-related deaths among 55 to 64-year-olds.

"We continue to face extremely high levels of health harms caused by alcohol, and it continues to be the leading risk factor for deaths among men and women aged between 15 and 49 years in the UK. Unless we start taking this seriously and acknowledge the health risks that too much alcohol can cause the situation will only get worse."

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