Alcohol killed more people in 2020 in England and Wales than any other year on record, the Office for National Statistics has revealed.
A fifth more people died of alcohol misuse in 2020 than in 2019, official figures show, with the total number of deaths relating to alcohol reaching 7,423.
Most deaths were related to long-term alcohol dependency, but the death rate increased from March 2020 onwards when the UK went into lockdown.
There were 1,963 alcohol-specific deaths registered in quarter four (October to December 2020), with an age-standardised rate of 13.6 deaths per 100,000 people. This was the highest rate for any quarter in almost two decades, the ONS data showed.
Some 80% of deaths were related to alcoholic liver disease, 10% mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol abuse, and 6% from accidental alcohol poisoning.
The alcohol death rate for men in 2020 was twice the rate for women. In England, men living in the most deprived areas were four times more likely to die because of alcohol misuse than those living in the most affluent areas.
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chief of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “It is devastating to hear that the number of deaths linked to alcohol has increased so dramatically in the last year. Each of these numbers represents a life of an individual cut short by alcohol consumption and a family that has been left in mourning. The future impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on addiction and mental health makes action now all the more critical.
“If the UK government wants to demonstrate its commitment to turning this tragic trend around, it must urgently introduce an alcohol strategy which seeks to address health inequalities and stop the sale of cheap, strong alcohol that is so harmful to health. The government also needs to improve access to treatment for those who need it.”
The ONS said: “When trying to understand the elevated rates of alcohol-specific deaths seen since April 2020, there will be many complex factors, and it may be some time before we fully understand all of these.
“Data from Public Health England show that consumption patterns have changed since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Alcohol consumption is a contributing factor to hospital admissions and death.”