Deaths in the UK caused directly by alcohol hit a new high in 2020 after the biggest year-on-year increase since records began, figures show.
A total of 8,974 deaths related to alcohol-specific causes were registered in the UK last year, or 14.0 deaths per 100,000 people.
This is up 18.6% on the 7,565 deaths registered in 2019, or 11.8 per 100,000.
The rise was described as “statistically significant” by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which published the figures.
There will be “many complex factors” behind the increase and “it may be some time before we fully understand all of these”, the ONS said.
Separate data from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities has suggested levels of alcohol consumption in England have changed since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with periods of lockdown coinciding with a slight rise in the proportion of people drinking a high number of units of alcohol each week.
Comparable data for alcohol-specific deaths in the UK begins in 2001, and shows rates of death remained stable between 2012 and 2019.
All four UK nations saw a rise in 2020, though only England and Scotland recorded “significant” increases, according to the ONS.
Scotland had the highest rate of alcohol-specific deaths last year (21.5 per 100,000 people, up from 18.6), followed by Northern Ireland (19.6, up from 18.8), Wales (13.9, up from 11.8) and England (13.0, up from 10.9).
As in previous years, the rate for males across the UK was more than double the rate for females (19.0 and 9.2 respectively).
Alcohol-specific deaths only include those health conditions where death is a direct consequence of alcohol misuse.
More than three-quarters of these deaths in 2020 were caused by alcoholic liver disease (77.8%).
A further 12.1% of deaths were caused by “mental and behavioural disorders due to the use of alcohol”, while “external causes”, such as accidental poisoning by alcohol, caused 6.2%.
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