Consequences: Adult drinking in the UK

What are the social and personal problems related to alcohol? Here is the UK data around alcohol-related crime, dependence and treatment, hospital admissions and deaths. Estimates of the overall societal costs of alcohol harm and regional variations are also shown.

Social and personal problems related to alcohol

Alcohol dependence and treatment

In England in 2014, 1.9% of adults aged 16 and over were harmful or mildly dependent drinkers (AUDIT scores of 16 to 19) and 1.2% were probably dependent drinkers (AUDIT scores of 20 or more).1

Of men in England in 2014, harmful, mildly dependent, and probably dependent drinking was most common among 25 to 34 year olds (6.6%).2 For women, this level of problem drinking was most frequent among those aged 16 – 24.3 In England, drinking at hazardous levels has declined over the past 15 years, down from 36.8% in 2000 to 27.9% in 2014.4

In 2017 in England 172,997 prescription items were given (in a primary care setting or NHS hospital), for the treatment of alcohol dependency.5 This figure continues the downward trend from 2016 (188,331)—which marked the first decrease in prescriptions since 2004. In the last 10 years, the number of items prescribed has increased by 41%.

In 2017, the Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) of these prescription items to treat alcohol dependency amounted to £4.42 million—a figure lower than 2016 (£4.87 million), but just under double the level ten years ago (2007, £2.48 million).6

In 2016/17, there were an estimated 589,101 dependent drinkers in England;7 81.7% of which were not in treatment.8

In Scotland in 2017/18 there were 8,972 patients dispensed drugs for alcohol dependency, a 3.2% decrease from the previous year (9,270 patients). The gross ingredient cost of drugs for alcohol dependence was approximately £2.1 million in 2017/18, this is a 9.6% decrease compared with 2016/17.9 

Hospital admissions

Alcohol related hospital admissions can be measured using either a broad or a narrow measure. The narrow measure is considered more appropriate when assessing trends over time.

Based on a broad measure of alcohol-related hospital admissions:

In 2017/18, there were an estimated 1,171,253 admissions related to alcohol consumption in England, where an alcohol-related disease, injury or condition was the primary reason for hospital admission or a secondary diagnosis10—a figure that is 3% higher than 2016/17, and one that represents 7.2% of all hospital admissions.11

The rate of admissions for alcohol-related conditions has increased from 2,185 (per 100,000) in 2016/17 to 2,224 (per 100,000) in 2017/18.12

Men were more likely to be admitted to hospital with alcohol related diseases, injuries and conditions than women (64.5% vs 35.4% of admissions).13

Based on a narrow measure of alcohol-related hospital admissions:

In 2017/18, there were an estimated 337,867 alcohol-related hospital admissions in England where the primary diagnosis or external causes recorded in secondary diagnosis fields were attributable to the consumption of alcohol.14

This is similar to the level observed in 2016/17 (337,113) and 2015/16 (339,280), but higher than the number of admissions in 2013/14 (333,010).15

People admitted to hospital:

In 2017/18, there were 304,073 alcohol-specific hospital admissions in England; 205,623 male and 98,450 female.16

Between 2015/16 and 2017/18 for under 18s in England, there were 11,610 alcohol-specific hospital admissions—a rate of 32.9 per 100,000 population.17

Alcohol-specific deaths

In 2017, there were 7,697 alcohol-specific deaths in the UK—continuing the upward trend in deaths observed since 2012 (Figure 1).18 5,974 deaths were due to alcoholic liver disease.19 The 2017 age-standardised rate of 12.2 alcohol-specific deaths per 100,000 people is now the highest rate since 2008 when the rate was recorded as 12.7 deaths per 100,000 people.20

In 2017, alcohol-specific deaths were highest among males aged 60-64 years (40.6 deaths per 100,000) and among females aged 55 to 59 years (19.6 deaths per 100,000).21 

Approximately two-thirds of alcohol-specific deaths occur among men—a trend that has remained consistent since 2001 (Figure 2).

In 2017 in England, there were 5,843 alcohol-specific deaths; 80% of which were attributable to alcoholic liver disease.22 The rates for men were highest in the North East (20.1 per 100,000), and lowest in London (11.3 per 100,000).23 For women, alcohol-specific death rates were highest in the North East (11.1 per 100,000) and lowest in London (4.6 per 100,000).24

Estimates suggest that in the period between 2015-2017, 48.7% of deaths from liver disease in England were as a result of alcoholic liver disease—the most common cause of death from liver disease.25

Alcohol-related crime

There were approximately 464,000 incidents of violent crime in England and Wales in 2016/17 where the victim believed the offender to be under the influence of alcohol, and this represented 40% of all violent crime. The proportion of violent crime linked to alcohol has fallen from 53% in 2013/14 (Figure 3).26 A similar pattern has been observed in the other nations of the UK.

In Scotland, the proportion of violent crimes involving offenders under the influence of alcohol was 42% in 2016/17—a figure that has decreased significantly since 2008/09 (63%) and 2014/15 (56%).27

According to provisional statistics by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, alcohol was a contributory factor in one-fifth of all crimes recorded in 2017/18 and has remained at this level since 2012/13. The proportion of violent crimes involving offenders under the influence of alcohol was 40%—a figure that has fallen since 2012/13 (47%).28

Drink driving

In 2016 in Great Britain, an estimated 9,040 people were injured or killed on roads in incidents where a driver or rider was over the alcohol limit—a 7% increase on the previous year. This represents 5% of all reported road casualties in 2016.29

An estimated 230 people were killed in drink-drive accidents during 2016, up from 200 in 2015.30 This represents 13% of all deaths in reported road accidents.31

Alcohol harm paradox: Is alcohol harm linked to income?

The so-called ‘alcohol harm paradox’ describes the finding that people in the most socioeconomically deprived neighbourhoods of the UK, despite not reporting to be drinking more, are likely to experience more alcohol-related health problems than their counterparts living in more affluent neighbourhoods.32

For further information read our Research Highlight on the Alcohol Harm Paradox.

Costs of alcohol harm

A 2016 Public Health England evidence review estimates the economic burden of alcohol as between 1.3% and 2.7% of annual UK GDP (approximately £21-£52 billion).33 You can access the full report here.

Regional variances

An interactive Alcohol Harm Map has been created to provide local level statistics on a range of alcohol harm measures. You can explore these local level statistics for England and Wales via the data visualisation tool on the Drink Wise Wales website

 

Last reviewed: 07/02/2019

References

NHS Digital. (2016). Adult psychiatric morbidity survey: survey of mental health and wellbeing, England, 2014. [Online]. Available at: https://files.digital.nhs.uk/pdf/q/3/mental_health_and_wellbeing_in_england_full_report.pdf. [Accessed 3 January 2019].

2 Ibid

3 Ibid

Ibid

NHS Digital. (2018). Statistics on alcohol: England, 2018 - tables. Table 1. [Online]. Available at: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/statistics-on-alcohol/2018. [Accessed 3 January 2019].

Prescription items give a measure of how often a prescriber has decided to write a prescription for the treatment of alcohol dependence. This is not a measure of the volume of drugs prescribed, as different practices may prescribe for different lengths of treatment.

Ibid

Public Health England. (2018). Alcohol dependence prevalence in England. [Dataset]. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/alcohol-dependence-prevalence-in-england. [Accessed 4 January 2019].

Public Health England. (2018). Public health dashboard. [Online]. Available at: https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/topic/public-health-dashboard/comparisons#par/E92000001/ati/102/iid/93010/sexId/-1/gid/1938133162/pat/102/are/E10000023. [Accessed 4 January 2019].

Public Health Information for Scotland. (2018). Alcohol: treatment for alcohol misuse. [Online]. Available at: https://www.scotpho.org.uk/behaviour/alcohol/data/treatment-for-alcohol-misuse. [Accessed 4 January 2019].

10 Public Health England. (2019). Local alcohol profiles for England: February 2019 update. [Online]. Available at: http://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/local-alcohol-profiles/data#page/11/gid/1938132833/pat/6/par/E12000004/ati/102/are/E06000015. [Accessed 5 February 2019].

11 NHS Digital. (2019). Statistics on alcohol: England, 2019. [Online]. Available at: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/statistics-on-alcohol/2019/part-1. [Accessed 5 February 2019].

12 Ibid

13 Ibid

14 Ibid

15 Ibid

16 Ibid

17 Note: admissions are not the same as individuals being admitted. Public Health England. (2019) Local alcohol profiles for England: February 2019 update. [Online]. Available at: https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/local-alcohol-profiles/data#page/11/gid/1938132982/pat/6/par/E12000004/ati/102/are/E06000015/iid/91414/age/1/sex/4. [Accessed 5 February 2019].

18 Office for National Statistics. (2018). Alcohol-specific deaths in the UK. [Dataset]. Table 1. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/datasets/alcoholspecificdeathsintheukmaindataset. [Accessed 3 January 2019].

19 Office for National Statistics. (2018). Alcohol-specific deaths by sex, age group and cause of death. ONS. [Dataset]. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/datasets/alcoholspecificdeathsbysexagegroupandindividualcauseofdeath. [Accessed 2 January 2019].

20 Ibid. Table 1.

21 Ibid. Table 2.

22 NHS Digital. (2019). Statistics on alcohol: England, 2019. [Online]. Available at: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/statistics-on-alcohol/2019/part-2. [Accessed 5 February 2019].

23 Office for National Statistics. (2018). Alcohol-specific deaths by sex, age group and cause of death. Table 8. [Dataset]. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/datasets/alcoholspecificdeathsbysexagegroupandindividualcauseofdeath. [Accessed 2 January 2019].

24 Ibid

25 Figures extracted from: Public Health England. Liver disease profiles. [Online]. Available at: https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/liver-disease/data#page/11/gid/8000063/pat/6/par/E12000004/ati/102/are/E06000015/iid/40601/age/163/sex/4. [Accessed 2 January 20109].

26 Office for National Statistics. (2018). Nature of crime tables, violence. Table 3.11. [Dataset]. Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/natureofcrimetablesviolence. [Accessed 2 January 2019].

27 The Scottish Government. (2018). Scottish crime and justice survey 2016/17: main findings. [Online]. Available at: https://www2.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00533870.pdf. [Accessed 2 January 2019].

28 Police Service of Northern Ireland. (2018). Police recorded crime in Northern Ireland: monthly update 31 March 2018. [Online]. Available at: https://www.psni.police.uk/globalassets/inside-the-psni/our-statistics/police-recorded-crime-statistics/2018/march/monthly-crime-bulletin-apr-mar-17_18.pdf. [Accessed 2 January 2018].

29 Department for Transport. (2018). Reported drinking and driving (RAS51). RAS51001. [Online]. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/ras51-reported-drinking-and-driving#reported-drink-and-drive-excel-data-tables. [Accessed 7 January 2019].

30 Central estimate. Ibid, Table RAS51001.

31 NHS Digital. (2019). Statistics on alcohol: England, 2019. [Online]. Available at: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/statistics-on-alcohol/2019/part-6. [Accessed 5 February 2019].

32 Bellis, M. Hughes, K. Nicholla, J. Sheron, N. Gilmore, I. and Jones, L. (2016). The alcohol harm paradox: using a national survey to explore how alcohol may disproportionately impact health in deprived individuals. BMC Public Health. 16(1): 111. Available at: https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/s12889-016-2766-x?site=bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com. [Accessed 2 January 2019].

33 Public Health England. (2016). The Public Health Burden of Alcohol and the Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Alcohol Control Policies. An evidence review. London, UK. [Online]. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/733108/alcohol_public_health_burden_evidence_review_update_2018.pdf.

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