Report conducted at the University of Sheffield provides ‘clear and compelling’ new evidence on the effectiveness of minimum unit pricing.

Alcohol consumption will cause 63,000 deaths in England over the next five years according to a new report from the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group.

alcoholThe report, published by the Foundation for Liver Research, predicts that 32,475 of the deaths – the equivalent of 35 a day – will be the result of liver cancer and another 22,519 from alcoholic liver disease.

In its new report, Financial case for action on liver disease, endorsed by the independent Lancet Commission on Liver Disease, the Foundation for Liver Research urges the Government to implement a suite of policy measures designed to mitigate the rising health and financial burden of alcohol, including the introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP), re-institution of alcohol duty escalator and advertising restrictions.

  • Between 2017 and 2022 the total cost to the NHS of alcohol-related illness and deaths will be £17 billion.
  • Study shows introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol could significantly reduce the burden.

Providing evidence in support of Government intervention, new modelling shows that within five years of its introduction in England, a 50p MUP alone would result in:

  • ian gilmore quote21,150 fewer alcohol-related deaths
  • 74,500 fewer alcohol-related hospital admissions
  • Savings of £325.7m in healthcare costs
  • Savings of £710.9m in crime costs

The total financial savings to the public purse of MUP is forecast to be £1.1 billion – the equivalent cost of the Government’s recently announced investment package for Northern Ireland.

Colin Angus, Research Fellow at the University of Sheffield and part of the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group who conducted the research, said:

“These new findings show there will be 35 deaths and 2,300 hospital admissions due to alcohol every day in England over the next five years. We estimate this will cost the NHS £17 billion at a time when healthcare resources are already overstretched. Our research also shows that policies such as Minimum Unit Pricing have the potential to significantly reduce this burden.”

Liver disease is one of Britain’s biggest killers, claiming about 12,000 lives a year in England alone. The number of deaths associated with it has risen by 400% since 1970. It is estimated that 62,000 years of working life are lost every year as a result of it. People who develop serious liver problems also suffer some of the worst health outcomes in western Europe.

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Over 200,000 children in England are living with Dependent Drinkers!

New figures released today reveal that over 200,000 children in England are living with dependent drinkers who could benefit from receiving specialist alcohol treatment.

The data from Public Health England estimates that there are 600,000 dependent drinkers who would benefit from treatment, yet only just over 100,000 are currently receiving the help they need.

These figures only cover adults who are most seriously dependent on alcohol. It is currently estimated that around 1.5 million adults in England and Wales have some form of alcohol dependence, and that there are 2.5 million children living with an adult drinking at risky levels.

The PHE data is released alongside a report from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) focused on improving the life chances and job prospects of the least well-off. The Department has said it will increase access to grant funding and introduce peer mentors for those in alcohol treatment to help them get back into work.

The report comes at a time when politicians are increasingly recognising the harm cheap alcohol is doing to the most vulnerable in society. The March budget included a consultation on the introduction of a new tax band designed to increase the price of strong white cider, a product which is predominantly consumed by children and heavy drinkers.

And earlier today a report published by the House of Lords Licensing Committee following an enquiry into the operation of the 2003 Licensing Act recognised the damage being done by cheap alcohol. The report calls for the introduction of a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol across the UK if it is introduced in Scotland and proves to be successful. Its introduction is being stalled by legal action being taken by sections of the alcohol industry. The report also calls for an end to multi-buy deals such as three for the price of two, a measure which has proved to be successful in Scotland.

Alcohol health experts welcomed the measures announced by the DWP today and the focus on the most vulnerable and lowest paid, pointing to studies which have shown that the least well off are around five times more likely to die from alcohol-related causes than those at the top of the income bracket.

Experts also called, however, for a wider, population-level approach to improving life and employment opportunities for dependent drinkers alongside greater support for individuals.

Liver physician Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA), said:

“We welcome the Government’s recognition that cheap alcohol is damaging some of the most vulnerable groups in society. The revelation that 200,000 children in England are living with adults in need of specialist help is deeply worrying. We need to make sure people get the support they need once they have a problem with alcohol, for their own sakes and for the sake of their children. But people don’t set out to become dependent drinkers and we need to stop more people from reaching that stage.

“For the greatest impact, the measures announced today should be combined with
measures like minimum unit pricing of alcohol. Studies have shown that setting a minimum price for alcohol would reduce unemployment and bring substantial numbers of unemployed drinkers back into the workforce.

“The government is already taking steps to tackle alcohol dependence in this broader way, with the recent announcement that it will be consulting on increasing the tax on high- strength ciders, drinks which are known to be drunk by the most vulnerable and do disproportionate harm.

“Studies also indicate that MUP would help address health inequalities, with over 80 per cent of lives saved coming from the lowest income groups. At the same time, the measure would not increase the price of alcohol sold in pubs and clubs.”

The Public Health England figures can be found here.
The DWP report, entitled Improving Lives: helping workless families, is available here.


About the Alcohol Health Alliance UK
The Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA) is a group of 50 organisations including the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of GPs, British Medical Association, Alcohol Concern and the Institute of Alcohol Studies. The AHA works together to:
– Highlight the rising levels of alcohol-related health harm
– Propose evidence-based solutions to reduce this harm
– Influence decision makers to take positive action to address the damage caused by alcohol misuse

Unravelling the alcohol harm paradox: a population-based study of social gradients across very heavy drinking thresholds | Research report

 

Who was involved?

Dan Lewer – Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Charing Cross Hospital

Petra Meier – ScHARR, University of Sheffield

Emma Beard – Department of Epidemiology & Public Health and Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, University College London

Sadie Boniface – National Addications Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London

Eileen Kaner – Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University

Background to the research:

There is consistent evidence that individuals in higher socioeconomic status groups are more likely to report exceeding recommended drinking limits, but those in lower socioeconomic status groups experience more alcohol-related harm. This has been called the ‘alcohol harm paradox’. Such studies typically use standard cut-offs to define heavy drinking, which are exceeded by a large proportion of adults. Our study pools data from six years (2008–2013) of the population-based Health Survey for England to test whether the socioeconomic distribution of more extreme levels of drinking could help explain the paradox.

Methods used:

The study included 51,498 adults from a representative sample of the adult population of England for a cross-sectional analysis of associations between socioeconomic status and self-reported drinking. Heavy weekly drinking was measured at four thresholds, ranging from 112 g+/168 g + (alcohol for women/men, or 14/21 UK standard units) to 680 g+/880 g + (or 85/110 UK standard units) per week. Heavy episodic drinking was also measured at four thresholds, from 48 g+/64 g + (or 6/8 UK standard units) to 192 g+/256 g + (or 24/32 UK standard units) in one day. Socioeconomic status indicators were equivalised household income, education, occupation and neighbourhood deprivation.

Results of the study:

Lower socioeconomic status was associated with lower likelihoods of exceeding recommended limits for weekly and episodic drinking, and higher likelihoods of exceeding more extreme thresholds. For example, participants in routine or manual occupations had 0.65 (95 % CI 0.57–0.74) times the odds of exceeding the recommended weekly limit compared to those in ‘higher managerial’ occupations, and 2.15 (95 % CI 1.06–4.36) times the odds of exceeding the highest threshold. Similarly, participants in the lowest income quintile had 0.60 (95 % CI 0.52–0.69) times the odds of exceeding the recommended weekly limit when compared to the highest quintile, and 2.30 (95 % CI 1.28–4.13) times the odds of exceeding the highest threshold.

Conclusions

Low socioeconomic status groups are more likely to drink at extreme levels, which may partially explain the alcohol harm paradox. Policies that address alcohol-related health inequalities need to consider extreme drinking levels in some sub-groups that may be associated with multiple markers of deprivation. This will require a more disaggregated understanding of drinking practices.

Read the full report here.

 

@SARG_ScHARR Research reveals surprising insight into British drinking culture #alcohol

  • Almost half of all drinking occasions are moderate, relaxed and take place in the home
  • Pre-drinking is now a common feature of nights out for both younger and older adults
  • Half of get-togethers with friends or family involve increased or higher risk drinking

New research into the UK’s alcohol consumption has revealed a surprising picture of Britain’s drinking culture.

alcohol consumption infographic by ScHARR

The study by the University of Sheffield’s Alcohol Research Group, funded by Alcohol Research UK, shows that while heavy drinking is still commonplace, much consumption is moderate and sociable.

Between 2009 and 2011, almost half (46 per cent) of drinking occasions in the UK involved moderate, relaxed drinking in the home. However, nine per cent involved drinking heavily at home with a partner.

The study, published online by the scientific journal Addiction, also confirmed that ‘pre-drinking’ is a typical feature of nights out for both young adults and older drinkers – and often involves heavy consumption.

A total of 10 per cent of all drinking occasions involved groups of friends moving between home and pub drinking and consuming on average 14 units of alcohol – the equivalent of seven pints of beer or one and a half bottles of wine. However, for many, going out with friends often involved drinking only low levels of alcohol.

In comparison, almost half of get-togethers with friends or family which take place exclusively at home, such as dinner parties, house parties and watching sport, involved increased or higher risk drinking*.

Dr John Holmes, a Senior Research Fellow in the University of Sheffield’s Alcohol Research Group, who led the study, said: “Far from the stereotypes of binge Britain or a nation of pub-drinkers, we find that British drinking culture mixes relaxed routine home drinking with elements of excess.

“Young people do binge drink on big nights out but we also see heavy drinking among middle-aged couples relaxing at home and among all ages at domestic get-togethers.”

The findings come from detailed drinking diaries completed by a representative sample of 90,000 adults as part of Kantar Worldpanel’s Alcovision study**. In addition to recording how much they drank, participants detailed where and when they consumed alcohol, who was there and why they were drinking.

The researchers based at the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) used the diaries to identify eight main types of drinking occasion.

Most of these involved drinking in the home and included; drinking at home alone (14 per cent of occasions), light drinking at home with family (13 per cent), light drinking at home with a partner (20 per cent) and heavy drinking at home with a partner (nine per cent).

Consuming alcohol away from home was less common and included going out for a few drinks with friends (11 per cent of occasions) and going out for a meal as a couple or with family (nine per cent). The study found 10 per cent of occasions involved drinking heavily at both home and the pub – whether through pre- or post-drinking during a night out.

Dr James Nicholls, Director of Research and Policy Development at Alcohol Research UK, said “The idea that there is a single British drinking culture is wrong. Drinking behaviours have changed enormously over time, and there are wide variations within society.

“Rather than assuming society is neatly divided between ‘binge’, ‘heavy’ or ‘moderate’ drinkers we should think about the occasions on which people drink more or less heavily – and the fact we may be moderate in some contexts, and less so in others. If we want to address problems associated with drinking, we need to recognise the diversity of how we drink and understand the crucial role that cultures and contexts play in that.”

The study is published as an open access paper in the scientific journal Addiction and is available in the accepted articles section of Addiction’s website:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/%28ISSN%291360-0443

The full citation is: Ally AK, Lovatt M, Meier PS, Brennan A, and Holmes J. (2016) Developing a social practice-based typology of British drinking culture in 2009-2011: Implications for alcohol policy analysis. Addiction doi: 10.1111/add.13397.

To find out more about the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group’s work, click here to visit their website.

Read more @ The Conversation 

Important new report on alcohol & emergency services published by @InstAlcStud #alcohol

Important new report on alcohol and the emergency services from UKCTAS collaborators at the Institute of Alcohol Studies!

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 11.20.35

Press coverage:

Police call for end to 24-hour licensing over alcohol-related violence – The Guardian

24-hour booze mayhem: A&E staff, paramedics and police spend a quarter of their time dealing with drunks – Daily Mail

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@SARG_ScHARR team present Research Rap at UKCTAS Early Career Researchers’ Day!

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**To the tune of Fresh Prince of Bel Air**

From South Yorkshire, born and raised

SARG members examined an alcohol craze

Minimum pricing, taxation galore,

Just a few of the things we like to explore…

We first formed in two thousand and ten

When the MRC gave us money to spend

The Sheffield Alcohol Model we built,

Based on those who were drinking, while wearing a kilt!

We’ve got 15 members in our research group…

But we still like to keep UKCTAS in the loop

We research policy and many other things

So here’s a big list of what we bring…

Policy appraisal and price modelling,

Treatment capacity for heavy drinking,

Understanding why Brits drink a lot

Examining elasticities of what they bought

Adapting our model for tons of nations,

Like Wales, Scotland, and other relations

Developing models to curb tobacco smoking

Preventing risky drinkers from prematurely croaking

Awareness of drinking and cancer risk,

Hearing focus groups shout nanny state, ‘tisk, tisk!’

Reviewing drink guidelines in South London

Improving survey measures of alcohol consumption

Adapting our model for local authorities

Examining harms to others, close families

Defining what is meant by a drinking occasion

Addressing court appeal for EU persuasion

So these are the things SARG is working on now

We hope you enjoyed, now it’s time for the bow

If you have final comments for any one of us,

Please come and shout, future collaborations are a plus!

View more: SARG News and Activities 2015