Belfast Telegraph

Number of alcohol-specific deaths in Northern Ireland falls - a year after highest level on record

The tally of alcohol-related deaths in Northern Ireland has fallen.(Dominic Lipinski/PA).
The tally of alcohol-related deaths in Northern Ireland has fallen.(Dominic Lipinski/PA).

By Eimear McGovern

The number of alcohol-specific deaths in Northern Ireland has fallen for the first time in six years.

However, the figures for 2018 remain the third highest on record, according to statistics from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

Some 284 people died due to alcohol-specific causes, it has been revealed.

A total of 15,992 deaths were registered in Northern Ireland that year.

The number of alcohol-related deaths is 16.9% higher than was recorded a decade previously, when 243 people died from alcohol-related issues.

But the 2018 total was lower than the 303 deaths in 2017, the highest figure on record.

Alliance health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA said that while the figure is to be welcomed, significant issues remain.

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The overall trend has been going the wrong way for some time on this issue, she said.

“What we require is a mental health strategy and more specific support services for people battling alcoholism and addiction of any kind,” she said. “Clearly I hope we will have a minister in place imminently to take action and ensure that a downward trend becomes permanent.”

Alcohol-specific deaths continue to account for less than 2% of all deaths registered each year.

Two-thirds of alcohol-specific deaths in Northern Ireland are men, accounting for 196 of 284 deaths or seven in 10 of the total figure.

Meanwhile, 88 of the 284 died as a result of alcohol were woman — or three in 10.

The majority of those who died with alcohol-specific underlying causes each year since 2008 have been between the ages of 46 and 64, the figures show. The overall group accounts for more than six in 10 of each alcohol-related death every year on average.

In recent years, the number of those who died due to alcohol between the ages of 55 and 64 has increased, and that age group now accounts for more than a third of such deaths, or 36.6%.

For those aged between 45-54, their deaths accounted for 29.6% of the total.

There is a significantly higher number of alcohol-specific deaths in areas of deprivation, according to the figures.

Deaths in those areas is three times higher than alcohol-related deaths in the least deprived areas.

Some 27.4 of every 100,000 deaths in deprived areas are attributed to alcohol, while 7.6 deaths of 100,000 in the least deprived areas are alcohol-specific.

It comes as the Taoiseach said he won’t introduce minimum unit pricing on alcohol in the Republic of Ireland until Northern Ireland does the same.

Speaking in the Dail yesterday, Leo Varadkar said he did not want to encourage cross-border buying of alcohol.

“If people are crossing the Border to buy cheap alcohol, this measure will not work economically or in public health terms,” he said.

He said any agreement in the talks to get Stormont up and running again should include a date for the introduction of minimum unit pricing on alcohol.

The Taoiseach said there could be an agreement to implement minimum unit pricing on the same date. But he said: “We cannot wait forever. If it does not prove possible to adopt the approach I have set out, we may need to go ahead with the introduction of minimum unit pricing unilaterally.”

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