Unhealthy lifestyles 'fuel liver disease rise'

Man drinking alcohol Liver disease deaths in the under-65s have risen by a fifth in the past decade

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High levels of drinking and obesity mean England is one of the few places in Europe seeing a major preventable disease getting worse, the chief medical officer says.

Prof Dame Sally Davies highlighted the rise in liver-disease deaths in the under-65s - up 20% in a decade - in her annual report.

In comparison, most of the rest of Europe has seen rates fall.

She said urgent action was needed to discourage harmful lifestyles.

She said three of the major causes of liver disease - obesity, alcohol abuse and undiagnosed hepatitis infection - were all preventable.

But despite that, premature deaths from liver disease in the under-65s had jumped by a fifth since 2000 to 10 per 100,000 people.

'Minimum pricing'

Her study - the first volume of a two-part annual report - focused on a whole host of diseases from cancer to dementia.

A silent killer

But Dame Sally said it was the liver disease figures that most shocked her the most - and showed there needed to be investment in prevention, early diagnosis and effective treatment.

"I was struck by the data on liver disease particularly," she said.

"This is the only major cause of preventative death that is on the increase in England that is generally falling in other comparable European nations.

"We must act to change this."

The report comes after the government said earlier this year it would look to introduce a minimum price for alcohol. A consultation is expected to start soon.


Eric Appleby, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said the situation with liver disease was "appalling".

"It's imperative that we come together now to act swiftly and decisively to tackle this problem," he said.

"Setting a minimum unit price at 50p is one of a number of measures which will help protect those most vulnerable to the harm caused by alcohol misuse and I urge the government to act quickly on this."

Prof Mark Bellis, of the Faculty of Public Health, agreed, saying the figures were "embarrassing" and that tougher action was need on advertising as well as the introduction of minimum pricing.

Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Disease Trust, said the government needed to get the NHS to be more proactive too.

"We need to ensure GPs have far more awareness of liver disease and can recognise lifestyles that might be changed and early symptoms of liver disease so that effective treatments can be started," he said.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Income from alcohol taxes.... £16bn

    Cost of alcohol related illness to NHS..... £2.3bn

    Minimum pricing will only impact on wine sold at under around £4.50 a bottle and beer sold under around £1 per large can, Spirits will only be hit at the very discounted end, enough to make a difference? No, just another non-policy by the government to appease and hide duty increases later?

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    So is it only the poor who are vunerable? My Grandfather is very wealthy and he enjoys a drink most nights because he has earnt that pleasure throughout his life. I dont think a minimum price rise will affect him what so ever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Ah now it is the turn of the people who like a drink to feel the wrath of the holier than thou brigade. I sometimes wonder why we bother to listen to these studies and reports. If a substance was so harmful, then why isn't it banned? I am a smoker and accept it might kill me and certainly won't help my long term health. But I might also get struck by lightning, or a bus.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Many of those that drink wine or beer for flavour (eg: with food) would welcome less alcoholic strength in drinks.

    It's a fact that the amount of alcohol in drinks has crept up over the decades.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    57. You

    Your comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.
    The beeb seem wary of letting comments stand on tax evasion.
    Several posters have likened the move on minimum pricing for alcohol
    as a back door tax.
    I was merely pointing out that if corporations and their employees paid their dues without so much wriggling m/p could be about health not tax.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Price increases *might* deter kids and the poor from starting drinking but it won't do anything to stop problem drinkers and alcoholics. They will simply go without other things to afford the drink.

    The root cause is cultural. After all, cheap alcohol pricing doesn't seem to lead to problems in a lot of other countries.

    Not sure how we tackle the cultural problem though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    The "Brits" have been known as an island of heavy over drinkers who can't hold their alcohol since pre-roman times.

    That and the weather have not changed a jot in 2000 years. I doubt a bit more expense will either.

    Perhaps we should look into why many or our citizens feel the need blot out reality on a regular basis?

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    They talk all they want about increasing alcohol pricing but I happen to know that more and more people are turning to home brew.

    Tesco near us now has a flourishing home brew section.

    Pricing will not stop alcohol abuse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    How much of our taxes was spent on this pointless study which will achieve nothing but make the state look as though it cares.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    Does a pint of cider count towards your 5 a day?

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Increased price of alcohol will definitely reduce the amount we buy, but it won’t change the way we are… people will find cheaper alternatives that might cause even worse health problems. Prohibition is not the best alternative.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    "major preventative disease getting worse"

    Preventative disease?....seriously?

    It's a 'preventable' disease folks. Talking about BBC standards slipping...!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    I don't have a problem with increasing the price of ghastly cheap booze, it won't resolve the problem. I prefer to have one glass of decent wine 2 or 3 times a week. Pub and off-licence shop hours should be how they were 30 years ago. The issue behind those that choose to drink heavily should be addressed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    what should be of far more concern is the increase in processed food and meats we are all consuming and the supermarkets are promoting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    "Preventable" not "preventative". It's used twice incorrectly in the article.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    No one seems to have spotted the real issue here. What right has the Govt. to interfere with the liberty of the individual in this way? And for no better reason that an unelected medico is "shocked" by the results of a statitsical survey?

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    51.Voice of treason
    "As usual, it's the governments fault, the GPs fault, the drink manufacturers fault etc"

    You have no clue. When I was obese I accepted my share of the guilt (though the person who left me disabled after hitting me with their car deserves some blame too). The NHS did nothing to help when all I wanted was advice. I blame them for that. I took responsibility & helped myself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Alcohol compared to almost everything else is still very cheap. if Alcohol tax had gone up the level and tobacco then you would see more people giving up or at least not able to afford to spend as much as they do on drink

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Minimum pricing is not the solution.

    I would argue we need better education on the effects of liver disease e.g very explicit advertising on how people actually die from cirrhosisis, but I can't see that hapening

    Minimum pricing seems to be the standard knee-jerk reaction to the issue & cynically speaking it's only effect will be to increase Govt tax revenues via the back-door.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Just a couple of scoops. Thank you!


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