Unhealthy lifestyles 'fuel liver disease rise'

Man drinking alcohol Liver disease deaths in the under-65s have risen by a fifth in the past decade

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High levels of drinking and obesity mean England is one of the few places in Europe seeing a major preventable disease getting worse, the chief medical officer says.

Prof Dame Sally Davies highlighted the rise in liver-disease deaths in the under-65s - up 20% in a decade - in her annual report.

In comparison, most of the rest of Europe has seen rates fall.

She said urgent action was needed to discourage harmful lifestyles.

She said three of the major causes of liver disease - obesity, alcohol abuse and undiagnosed hepatitis infection - were all preventable.

But despite that, premature deaths from liver disease in the under-65s had jumped by a fifth since 2000 to 10 per 100,000 people.

'Minimum pricing'

Her study - the first volume of a two-part annual report - focused on a whole host of diseases from cancer to dementia.

A silent killer

But Dame Sally said it was the liver disease figures that most shocked her the most - and showed there needed to be investment in prevention, early diagnosis and effective treatment.

"I was struck by the data on liver disease particularly," she said.

"This is the only major cause of preventative death that is on the increase in England that is generally falling in other comparable European nations.

"We must act to change this."

The report comes after the government said earlier this year it would look to introduce a minimum price for alcohol. A consultation is expected to start soon.


Eric Appleby, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said the situation with liver disease was "appalling".

"It's imperative that we come together now to act swiftly and decisively to tackle this problem," he said.

"Setting a minimum unit price at 50p is one of a number of measures which will help protect those most vulnerable to the harm caused by alcohol misuse and I urge the government to act quickly on this."

Prof Mark Bellis, of the Faculty of Public Health, agreed, saying the figures were "embarrassing" and that tougher action was need on advertising as well as the introduction of minimum pricing.

Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Disease Trust, said the government needed to get the NHS to be more proactive too.

"We need to ensure GPs have far more awareness of liver disease and can recognise lifestyles that might be changed and early symptoms of liver disease so that effective treatments can be started," he said.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    What is cheaper going out to have a McDonald's then down the pub with your friends, or eating healthy food from the supermarket then down the gym? Drinking and fast food are cheap and easily accessible. Take a look at the cost of a healthy lifestyle and compare it to a un healthy one, then calculate the cost to the NHS when dealing with the UK's failing health.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    Financial sanctions may influence moderate drinkers to cut back, but unfortunately addiction has never been a rational economic choice. The heavy user will just cut back in other essential areas to able to continue funding their addiction and therefore possibly exacerbating their problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    In my case, I do not drink.Other than a couple of glasses of wine at Xmas and a half pint of shandy with my Sunday dinner. Yet I am dying from cirrosis of the liver. There were no warning signs although I am Type 1 Diabetic. I believe that if this disease was found earlier I would not be in this position. But in all the blood tests I have had over the years not one was sent for liver analysis. Why

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Many people in the word live lives of "quiet desperation". Being with friends and having a good time are often associated with alcohol.

    "Some drink to remember, some drink to forget"

    To reduce alcoholism, the link between alcohol and 'having a good time' has to be broken.

    Good luck with that!

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    People are drinking less than they were 10 years ago - fact (although funnily enough that good news story rarely makes a good headline). The message is getting through, particularly in young people. It will take quite a while for this to be seen in the health stats. We need to lay off a continuing stream of knee-jerk reactions, and let things take their course.


Comments 5 of 10


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