U. SHEFFIELD (UK)—Death rates from alcohol-related diseases increase substantially in the socioeconomically deprived areas of England and Wales. Mortality rates of men and women in the most deprived areas were more than four times the rates in less deprived areas.

“Deaths from alcohol-related causes represent one extreme of the physical harm caused by alcohol,” says Ravi Maheswaran, one of the study’s authors and a researcher from the School of Health and Related Research at the University of Sheffield.

Details appear in the journal BMC Public Health.

The research identifies individuals who are most likely to die from an alcohol-related cause, to aid the future allocation of resources, and the design of policies which aim to reduce the harm caused from alcohol.

Results contradict a number of previous surveys which have consistently maintained that there is no excess alcohol consumption in more socioeconomically deprived groups.

Deaths in the UK from diseases such as alcoholic liver cirrhosis, alcoholic pancreatitis, alcoholic gastritis, are increasing, despite attempts to inform the public of the dangers of binge drinking, the researchers say.

The analysis was based on 18,716 deaths in men and 10,123 deaths in women from 1999 to 2003 and assessed the variation of alcohol-related mortality across areas of socioeconomic deprivation, urban-rural location and age.

The study also finds:

  • People living in urban areas experienced higher alcohol-related mortality when compared with those living in rural areas. Urban areas accounted for approximately 80 percent of the total population analyzed and 85 percent of all alcohol-related deaths, while villages accounted for approximately 9 percent of the population and 6 percent of alcohol-related deaths.
  • Mortality rates increased with age, peaking in middle-aged adults before declining in older adults. The 45-64 age group accounted for half of the alcohol-related deaths, but contained only a quarter of the total population included in the analysis.
  • There is a strong link between alcohol-related deaths and socioeconomic deprivation, with progressively higher rates in more deprived areas. The most socioeconomically deprived 20 percent of the population of England and Wales accounted for 32 percent of alcohol-related deaths in men and 26 percent of alcohol-related deaths in women whilst the least deprived 20 percent of the population accounted for 11 percent of male and 14 percent of female alcohol-related deaths. The greatest socioeconomic inequalities were seen in the 25-44 year age group.

“This study highlights the large inequalities in alcohol-related mortality which exist between different socioeconomic areas of the UK,” says Maheswaran.

“These differences should be taken into account when designing public health policies to reduce alcohol-related harm.”

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