Binge drinking causes rise in liver disease deaths
from Sarawak Tribune, 1 January 2002

LONDON- Binge drinking has caused a sharp rise in deaths from liver disease in England, the government's top medical adviser said on Monday.
Liver disease is striking both men and women at an earlier age than ever, Professor Liam Donaldson warned.

"A worrying trend is developing in the number of younger people who are being diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, which appears to be linked to alcohol and binge drinking in particular," said Donaldson, the country's chief medical officer, said in a statement.

Donaldson's annual report on the state of health in England - other parts of Britain have separate administrations said over 4,000 people died from liver cirrhosis in 2000.

The disease claimed the lives of almost 800 people between the ages of 25 and 44 and killed two out of three sufferers before they reached 65.

Donaldson said death rates for chronic liver disease have increased in all age groups since the early 1970s. Deaths among men aged 45-54 rose four-fold while three times as many women in that age group died. Among those aged 35-44, male deaths jumped eight-fold and female deaths seven-fold, while there were four times 25-34 age group.

Liver cirrhosis now kills more men than Parkinson's disease and more women than cervical cancer.

"Although we cannot be completely certain, by far the most convincing explanation for the increase in death rates from chronic liver disease and liver cirrhosis reported here is higher levels of alcohol consumption," Donaldson said.

He called for a concerted effort to tackle the rise in heavy drinking and suggested the drinks industry and National Health Service had roles to play.

"The range of adverse consequences of alcohol misuse encompasses not only the effect on people's health but also social damage such as crime and disorder, accident and injury, and social exclusion.

"Any solution must focus on changing problematic patterns of drinking," he said. - Reuters