Off the radar: older people and alcohol related deaths

In February 2014, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) published their yearly data for alcohol related deaths in the UK. This was followed by Local Alcohol Profiles for England (LAPE) on alcohol related deaths in England in people under the age of 75. When commenting on LAPE data that compared 2012 with 2006, Public Health England noted that alcohol-related mortality for men was down 2% since the last update and 7% over a 5-year period. For women, the corresponding figures were a 1% and 7% decrease respectively. The only other main further comment was a considerable variation between deprived and affluent areas but no specific breakdown into age groups.

But if we look at the ONS data more closely, you will see something very interesting indeed. There is no doubt that between 1991 and 2012, alcohol related deaths have increased in all 15-34, 35-54, 55-74 and 75+ age groups by over 50 per cent.

Alcohol related deaths 2


Between 2006 and 2012, alcohol related deaths in the 35-54 and 55-74 age groups have gone down by 20% and 10% respectively for men. In women it is down 18% and 6% respectively.

Now for the headline. For men aged 75 and over, it has risen by 22% over the same time period and for women, it has risen by 9%. This group is comparatively hidden in the overall data, as are the findings by age group.

If we look more closely at narrower age groups during 2012, we see a another picture emerging

Alcohol related deaths 2012 in UK per 100,000 population


By breaking down the data into smaller age groups, we can see that the peak risk is between the ages of 50 and 70.

Alcohol related deaths may be going down overall, but older people continue to represent a high risk group, with the 75 and over population showing a marked increase over the past 5 years.

If policy makers are to act, they must continue to have older people on their radar. This group may well require a different approach at a public health level in reducing alcohol related harm, but time is of the essence in when and how to act in reducing deaths from alcohol misuse.


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