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Alcohol claiming lives of young women

Friday July 19th, 2013

Growing numbers of young women in England and Wales are dying from alcohol-related health problems, it was revealed today.

Overall alcohol-related deaths have fallen in major urban centres - but this contrasts with increasing rates of illness among young women, researchers say.

Cheap alcohol and the growing clubbing scene have all played their part, it is claimed.

A report in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health describes the trend as “worrying” and the authors, from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, in Scotland, said it was a warning sign that must be heeded.

In their research, they centred on Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester, all of which have similar levels of poor health, deprivation and industrialisation, to see if there were any factors that might help explain the higher rate of early deaths in Glasgow.

Heart disease and stroke used to be the main killers in the under 65s in Glasgow but since the 1990s, alcohol, drugs, suicide and violence have overtaken them.

The researchers analysed trends in deaths related to alcohol in all three cities from the 1980s until 2011 and looked specifically at the influences of age, gender, and birth cohort in 10-year periods from 1910 to 1979.

In the early 1980s, rates of alcohol-related deaths were three times as high in Glasgow as they were in Liverpool and Manchester but rates rose over the next 30 years in all three cities.

Glasgow saw a sharp increase in alcohol-related deaths from 1993 whereas the trajectory was linear in the two English cities. In the early 2000s, the rates stabilised and then began to fall in all three cities, but the sharpest decrease was in Glasgow.

They found that across all three cities, similar age trends were evident but that the highest numbers of alcohol-related deaths were among men and women in their 40s and 50s. There were between two to three times the number of deaths among men as women but the pace and timing of the increase was the same across the sexes.

It was also discovered that women born in the 1970s, unlike men born at the same time, were dying from alcohol related causes at a much earlier age than in the previous birth cohort - and in “notable numbers” during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Increased affordability and availability of alcohol, combined with effective marketing by industry and the promotion of the night time economy have undoubtedly played their part, say the authors.

Minimum unit pricing will help, but that won’t address the “deep rooted cultural influences at play,” say the authors, who admit that the patterns they found do not explain excess alcohol-related deaths in Glasgow.

“It is imperative that this early warning sign is acted upon. Failure to have a policy response to this new trend may result in the effects of this increase being played out for decades to come,” they add.

Shipton D et al. Alcohol related mortality in deprived UK cities: worrying trends in young women challenge recent national downward trends. Online First Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. 18 July 2013. doi 10.1136/jech-2013-202574 [abstract]

Tags: Drug & Alcohol Abuse | Internal Medicine | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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