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Dying for a drink - Alcohol related death rates almost double since 1991

The alcohol-related death rate in the UK increased from 6.9 per 100,000 population in 1991 to 13.0 in 2004, according to data released by the Office for National Statistics. The number of alcohol-related deaths has more than doubled from 4,144 in 1991 to 8,380 in 2004.

The figures are an underestimate of the full amount of deaths as they only relate to deaths caused directly by alcohol. If indirect causes are taken into account the number of deaths could be 3 or 4 times higher. However, the new figures still show important and useful trends.

Speaking for the Royal College of Physicians, Professor Ian Gilmore, Chair of the College’s Alcohol Committee, said: “These new figures from the ONS are disturbing, but not surprising as they fit in closely with other recent figures such as hospital admissions for alcoholic liver disease and deaths from cirrhosis.

“The increase in deaths is likely to continue unless we can find some way to reverse the nation’s drinking habits. The College supports the Government’s Harm Reduction Strategy but if voluntary partnerships with industry and public education are not proving effective, the next step is direct intervention on issues such as availability of alcohol, price increases and restrictions on advertising.”


Death rates are much higher for males than females and the gap between the sexes has widened in recent years. In 2004 the male death rate, at 17.7 deaths per 100,000 population, was twice the rate for females (8.5 deaths per 100,000), and males accounted for over two thirds of the total number of deaths.

The figures

For men, the death rates in all age groups increased between 1991 and 2004. Men aged 35 to 54 had the highest death rate in each year. This rate more than doubled between 1991 and 2004, from 16.9 to 38.3 deaths per 100,000.


The death rates by age group for females were consistently lower than rates for males, however the trends showed a broadly similar pattern by age. The death rate for women aged 35 to 54 nearly doubled between 1991 and 2004, from 9.3 to 17.9 per 100,000 population, a larger increase than the rate for women in any other age group.