The ONS have released the latest annual Statistical bulletin for alcohol-related deaths in the UK (2015) [pdf]. In 2015 there were 8,758 alcohol-related deaths in the UK, a relatively stable trend since 2012. This follows a period of stabilising then falling rates, which ended a period of steeply rising deaths after 1994.
Main points from the release are identified as:
In 2015, there were 8,758 alcohol-related deaths in the UK, an age-standardised rate of 14.2 deaths per 100,000 population.
For the UK as a whole, alcohol-related death rates have not changed in recent years, but the rate in 2015 is still higher than that observed in 1994.
The majority of alcohol-related deaths (65%) in the UK in 2015 were among males.
For both males and females, rates of alcohol-related death were highest in those aged 55 to 64 years in 2015.
Scotland remains the UK constituent country with the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths in 2015; yet, Scotland has also seen the largest decrease in its rates since they peaked in the early 2000s.
Stability over alcohol-related deaths of course doesn't provide great tabloid headline fodder, or necessarily inform in which direction the future trend could lie. Last year a British Medical Journal analysis explored the effects of policy, economics and the market place on alcohol-related deaths. It argued that a threefold increase in alcohol-related deaths between 1980 and 2008 was driven by increased affordability and availability, but subsequently stemmed by the recession and alcohol duty escalator. As such its authors Ian Gilmore and Nick Sheron warned that the future trend in deaths will rise if any future economic prosperity outstrips alcohol duty rates and results in increasing affordability.
Certainly health groups have been keen to catch the Chancellor's ear to increase duty ahead of the forthcoming budget, but is also being called to act in the opposite direction by alcohol industry sections. Last year however John Holmes questioned whether affordability will play such a dominant role in future trends. Indeed recent falls in consumption driven by more abstemious younger generation appear to be influenced by a broader and more complex set of factors, albeit hard to pin down. Alcohol-related deaths are of course one of just many harm indicators and measures. The next annual national statistics for alcohol will no doubt offer range of rising and falling trends in various consumption and harm related measures, and the 'debate' on where next for alcohol policy will continue.