Tue Nov 7, 2006
By Peter Griffiths
LONDON (Reuters) - The number of middle-aged men drinking themselves to death has more than doubled since 1991, according to official figures released on Tuesday.
Men aged between 35 and 54 have suffered the biggest rise in alcohol-related deaths, the Office for National Statistics said.
Deaths among women in the same age group also nearly doubled, fuelling concerns over binge-drinking and rising alcohol consumption in Britain.
Campaigners said the link between people drinking more and the rise in alcohol-related deaths was established more than 50 years ago.
"Tragic as they are, these figures are hardly a surprise," said Frank Soodeen, a spokesman for the charity Alcohol Concern.
"Binge drinkers should take especial note of the rise in the number of people aged between 35 and 54 who are now dying."
The number of alcohol-related deaths last year stood at 8,386, compared to 4,144 in 1991.
Death rates among middle-aged men more than doubled to 30 per 100,000 of the population. The highest rate of deaths among men and women was seen in the 55 to 74 age bracket.
The Liberal Democrat party said the government had "failed miserably" to deal with alcohol abuse.
"Ministers have done very little to tackle the root causes of our binge-drinking culture," said Shadow Health Secretary Steve Webb. "Public health budgets are being raided across the country to plug spiraling deficits."
The Department of Health said it was spending more to promote sensible drinking and was working with the drinks industry to stamp out alcohol abuse.
"We are concerned about the number of alcohol-related deaths and are committed to tackling this problem," a spokesman said.
Last year's changes in the law to allow pubs to open longer were criticized as an invitation for people to drink more.
The government rejected the claims, saying the changes would encourage sensible drinking. Alcohol is linked to a range of diseases, from liver damage and cancer to strokes and high blood pressure.