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Death: Alcoholic Drinks

Volume 506: debated on Monday 22 February 2010

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office pursuant to the answer of 8 February 2010, Official Report, column 800W, on death: liver diseases, how many alcohol-related deaths there were in the latest year for which figures are available, excluding deaths with an underlying cause of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis that do not mention alcohol as a contributing factor. (317565)

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the authority to reply.

Letter from Stephen Penneck, dated February 2010:

As Director General for the Office for National Statistics, I have been asked to reply to your recent question pursuant to the Answer of 8 February 2010, Official Report, column 800W, on death: liver diseases, how many alcohol-related deaths there were in the latest year for which figures are available, excluding deaths with an underlying cause of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis that do not mention alcohol as a contributing factor. (317565)

Figures provided in the previous Answer were the number of deaths with an underlying cause of (a) chronic liver disease and (b) cirrhosis, and the number of cases where alcohol is also mentioned on the death certificate as a contributing factor, in England and Wales, in 2008 (the latest year available) (Table 1).

According to the National Statistics definition, there were 7,344 deaths with an alcohol-related underlying cause in England and Wales in 2008 (the latest year available).1, 2, 3

The causes of death included in the previous Answer for chronic liver disease are not all included within the National Statistics definition of alcohol-related deaths. The causes listed for cirrhosis are included both in the causes for chronic liver disease and in the National Statistics definition. The causes of death previously given for chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, conditions which mention alcohol and the National Statistics alcohol-related deaths definition are listed below in Box 1.

Of the 6,514 deaths where chronic liver disease was the underlying cause of death in England and Wales in 2008,4, 2, 3 6,320 are included within the National Statistics definition of alcohol-related deaths (Figure 1).5 Of these, there were 4,781 deaths where alcohol was mentioned on the death certificate as a contributing factor, and 1,539 deaths where there was no explicit mention of alcohol (Figure 2).6

There were 5,805 deaths with an alcohol-related underlying cause, excluding deaths where the underlying cause was chronic liver disease (within the National Statistics definition) and alcohol was not mentioned on the death certificate as a contributing factor, in England and Wales, in 2008.2, 3

This figure was derived by subtracting the number of deaths where chronic liver disease (within the National Statistics definition) was the underlying cause of death and there was no mention of alcohol on the death certificate (1,539) from the total number of alcohol-related deaths (7,344).

Internationally accepted guidance from the World Health Organisation requires only those conditions that contributed directly to the death to be recorded on the death certificate. Medical practitioners and coroners are not supposed to record all of the diseases or conditions present at or before death, and whether a condition contributed is a matter for their clinical judgement. Lifestyle and behavioural factors, such as the deceased’s alcohol consumption, are not recorded.

Although not all deaths coded to liver disease and cirrhosis include a mention of alcohol on the death certificate, most are included in the official definition of alcohol-related deaths on the assumption that many of them were caused by alcohol, even if this was not explicitly stated.