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Essex: Charity and health bosses warn of drink dangers as new figures are published on alcohol-related deaths

PUBLISHED: 15:00 22 February 2014

Public health officials in Essex last night warned of the dangers of alcohol dependence after new figures showed drink-related deaths among women in East Anglia have reached a five-year high.

Alcohol consumption was named as the main reason behind the deaths of 211 women in the region in 2012, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), while the figure for men in the region was 344 – a six-year low.

One health charity said these particular statistics were “just the tip of the iceberg” and urged people who are addicted to alcohol to get help before it is too late.

A spokesman for Essex Public Health stressed that it was not just dependent and binge drinkers at risk from alcohol-related harm but regular ‘social drinkers’ as well.

The spokesman added: “For a woman simply having a large glass (250ml) of 12% wine (3 units) every day or a man drinking two pints of 4% lager (4.6 units), can push you above the recommended guidelines.

“Whilst the published figures show little change in the rates of death for very specific conditions, alcohol is still one of the biggest causes of ill health across the country and we need to maintain a focus on providing the information and support required to reduce the impact.”

Alan Murray, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for health and adult care, added: “These figures paint a very broad picture for the region, so it is difficult to comment on any underlying causes or trends in Suffolk.

“While I welcome a fall in the number of alcohol-related deaths for men, it is of obvious concern that the figure has increased for women.

“We work with colleagues across the health profession, and providers, to support people to overcome alcohol-related ill-health and dependency.

“This can be a complex process with many factors affecting each person’s recovery. We are constantly striving to improve the treatment system and to raise awareness of the harm that can be caused by alcohol and substance misuse.”

The ONS said their definition of alcohol-related deaths only includes those causes regarded as being most directly due to alcohol consumption.

It said the definition did not include other diseases where alcohol has been shown to have some causal relationship – such as cancers of the mouth, oesophagus and liver – but did include all deaths from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, excluding biliary cirrhosis, even when alcohol was not specifically mentioned on the death certificate.

Open Road, a charity with centres in Essex and Suffolk, provides support to people whose lives have been affected by drugs and alcohol.

Richard Bergson, Suffolk service manager for the charity, said: “Any avoidable death is a very sad thing to happen and we want to avoid that as much as we can.

“It is serious but it is just the tip of the iceberg and underneath that is a huge amount of problematic drinking which is feeding the next lot of statistics.”

Elsewhere in the region, it was previously revealed that 20,000 people in Suffolk are dependent on alcohol, according to a Suffolk County Council report published in December last year.

It also found that one in seven adults – 15.1% of people aged over 18 in the county – consume alcohol at an “increasing or higher risk”.

Meanwhile, the latest figures also show there was a 25% increase in two years in the number of male alcohol-related hospital admissions in Suffolk. It increased from 957 per 100,000 of the population in 2008/09 to 1,276 in 2010/11.

It rose from 527 to 752 for women in the same two-year period.

For more information about Open Road, please visit www.openroad.org.uk

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