Deaths from liver disease up by a quarter in a decade with 90 per cent of victims aged under 70
00:59 GMT, 22 March 2012
Soaring numbers of Britons are dying from liver disease fuelled by excessive drinking and obesity, experts warn.
The death toll has risen by a quarter in the last decade and many of the victims are middle-aged.
Just over 11,500 men and women now die of liver disease every year up from 9,200 in 2001, according a report by the National End of Life Care Intelligence Network.
Soaring numbers of Britons are dying from liver disease fuelled by excessive drinking and obesity
But 90 per cent of victims are under the age of 70 and experts say they are ‘dying before their time.’
The report warns that liver disease is the only big killer that is continuing to rise and deaths from heart disease and cancer are now beginning to level off.
Experts warn the increasing burden of the illness will leave the NHS at ‘breaking point.’
It is estimated that just under 80 per cent of these deaths are caused by alcohol, 20 per cent by obesity and the remainder by hepatitis or inherited conditions.
Separate figures also reveal that liver disease is claiming increasingly younger victims.
The average age of death of liver disease is now 60 in women and 58 in men. In the mid-1980s it was 64 and 62 respectively.
Andrew Langford, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust, said ‘The increasing numbers of people with, and dying from, liver disease leaves the UK at breaking point and we cannot afford to overlook these patients any longer.
‘Liver disease has remained the poor relation in comparison to other big killers such as cancer and heart disease, yet liver disease is the only big killer on the rise.
He called on the Government to intervene by banning cheap alcohol and bringing in taxes on high fat foods.
Experts have called on the Government to intervene by banning cheap alcohol and bringing in taxes on high fat foods
The report’s authors analysed figures from the Office of National Statistics on the number of deaths caused by liver disease every year since 2001.
These included deaths caused by alcoholic liver disease, fatty liver disease, liver cancer and cirrhosis – and other less common conditions. Nearly all of these illnesses are caused by alcohol or obesity.
There were 11,575 such deaths in 2009, the most recent figures available, and 60 per cent of victims were men.
Professor Martin Lombard, National Clinical Director for Liver Disease and one of the authors of the report said: ‘The key drivers for increasing numbers of deaths from liver disease are all preventable, such as alcohol, obesity, hepatitis C and hepatitis B.
‘We must focus our efforts and tackle this problem sooner rather than later.’