Figures show 7,423 people were killed by diseases known to be a direct consequence of booze abuse in 2020 – up 20 percent from 6,200 in 2019. Experts said the surge could be linked to people being reluctant to seek help during the Covid-19 crisis and reduced access to alcohol treatment.
Some may have increased their drinking in lockdown, but most deaths were caused by chronic conditions built over years.
Drink-related fatalities in England and Wales are at the highest since data was first recorded in 2001, the Office for National Statistics said.
Mortality had been rising by around two percent annually but this accelerated during each quarter of 2020.
Between October and December, there were 1,963 alcohol-related deaths – up 28.3 percent on 2019 and the highest in any quarter for 20 years. Dr Sadie Boniface, head of research at the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said the increase was “alarming”.
She said around four in every five booze-specific deaths are from liver disease. She added: “This means the increase is not explained by people increasing consumption in the pandemic.”
Men died at twice the rate of women, at 17.6 deaths per 100,000 compared with 8.7. Deaths were 4.2 times higher for men in deprived areas.
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “The Government must urgently address health inequalities and stop the sale of cheap strong alcohol that’s so harmful.”
Clare Taylor, of addiction charity Turning Point, said: “This is a wake-up call. Every loss of life as a result of alcohol is a preventable tragedy.”