The UK’s alcohol-related death rates have reached their highest point in more than two decades. Official statistics are based on official data. Experts also warn that Covid lockdowns were responsible for dangerous drinking patterns. 

According to data from the Office for National Statistics, alcohol-related death rates in Britain increased by five percent in just one year, reaching nearly 9,000. It is also the highest increase annually since records started in 2001.

Although rates had been steady since 2012, and they fell in the two previous years, the 2020 fatality rate rose more than 1,400 to 14 alcohol-related deaths for every 100,000 Britons.

These figures do not include fatalities that occurred as a result of alcohol misuse. For example, alcoholic liver disease accounted for almost eight out of 10 deaths.

ONS statisticians said ‘many complex factors’ contributed to the hike last year, but noted people drinking more alcohol during the pandemic would have been a factor. 

As in previous years, the rate of alcohol-related deaths was twice that of women and significantly higher in Scotland than Northern Ireland.   

Ian Hamilton is an Associate Professor of Addiction at York University. He told MailOnline that those who already drank ‘risky amounts’ of alcohol were encouraged to consume even more alcohol in the midst of the pandemic.

Drinkaware, a charity survey found that boredom, anxiety and more time to drink were the main reasons for worrying trends in alcohol use during lockdowns.

Hamilton stated that there was a shortage of supportive face-to-face help for drinkers who contributed to the “shocking” rise in deaths.

The report, which was compiled by the no longer relevant Public Health England (PHE), found Covid to be responsible for the greatest drop in life expectancy since 1940. The report warned of an “unprecedented” rise in alcohol-related deaths, which rose 20 percent last year to 2019 

The ONS data shows the vast majority of deaths (77.8 per cent) were caused by alcoholic liver disease (green), which is when prolonged and excessive alcohol consumption over many years causes serious and permanent damage to the liver. Mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use was the second leading cause of deaths (light blue), leading to 1,083 fatalities and accounting for 12 per cent of the deaths. Some 552 deaths were caused by accidental or intentional alcohol poisoning (dark blue, marked as external causes). Men in their 50s and early 60s were behind nearly a third of the deaths, while 20 per cent were recorded among women aged 45 to 65

According to ONS, 77% of all deaths were due to alcoholic liver disease (green), which occurs when excessive drinking over long periods causes permanent liver damage. The second most common cause of death (light blue) was mental and behavioral disorders caused by alcohol abuse. This led to 1,083 deaths and accounting for 12.5% of all deaths. 552 people died from accidental or deliberate alcohol poisoning (darkblue) which was attributed to external causes. Nearly a third were caused by deaths in men aged 50-65, and 20% were due to accidental or intentional alcohol poisoning (dark blue)

Figures from the ONS show fatality rates in Scotland and Northern Ireland were around a third higher than the UK average in 2020, with 21.5 and 19.6 deaths per 100,000, respectively. England and Wales continued to have lower rates of alcohol-specific deaths, with 13 and 13.9 deaths per 100,000 persons, respectively. However, the largest year-on-year increase was seen in England, where deaths increased by 19.3 per cent, and in Wales, where the figure rose 17.8 per cent

The ONS figures show that fatality rates for Scotland and Northern Ireland in 2020 were about a third higher then the UK’s average of 21.5 and 19.6 deaths to 100,000 respectively. England and Wales continue to experience lower alcohol-related deaths with 13.9 and 13 deaths for every 100,000 people, respectively. The largest increase in deaths year-over-year was in England with a 19.3% rise in deaths, while Wales saw a 17.8% increase.

The ONS data shows six out of the nine regions in England recorded a rise in alcohol deaths, with the West Midlands seeing the biggests rise (33.1 per cent), followed by the South West (32.2 per cent) and London (25.3 per cent). Alcohol fatalities also increased in the North East (20. 5 per cent), the North West (19.4 per cent) and the South East (18.5 per cent). Within England, there was huge regional disparity, with 9.2 per 100,000 deaths due to alcohol in the East, compared to 20 per 100,000 in the North East — the highest rate out of all regions in England

ONS data indicates that six out nine English regions experienced an increase in alcohol deaths. London was the most affected, followed by London (32.2%) and South West (32.2%). The North East saw an increase in alcohol-related deaths (20. The North East (25.4%), North West (20.4%), and South East (18.5%) had higher alcohol fatalities. Within England, there was huge regional disparity, with 9.2 per 100,000 deaths due to alcohol in the East, compared to 20 per 100,000 in the North East — the highest rate out of all regions in England

Alcohol-related causes are responsible for 14 deaths per 100,000. Comparatively, in 2019 there were 7,565 fatalities due to alcohol-related causes. This is 11.8 deaths for every 100,000 Britons. 


In 2020, 6,985 people died from alcoholic liver disease in the UK. This is about eight out of ten deaths related to alcohol.

It refers to liver damage caused by prolonged and excessive alcohol consumption.

The liver filters toxins from blood and aids in digestion. It also regulates blood sugar levels and fights infection.

Some cells of the liver die when it filters alcohol. They usually recover, though it is possible for them to become less resilient if they are consumed over a long period of time.

It can cause irreparable liver damage.

Symptoms of alcoholic liver disease are not common unless the liver has been severely damaged. This stage can cause symptoms such as weight loss, nausea, vomiting, confusion, drowsiness, and yellowing of skin and ankles.

The condition is not currently treated medically. Patients are advised to quit drinking all alcohol for at least one year to prevent further liver damage.

In some instances, a liver transplant might be necessary.

Source: NHS

A large number of deaths (6695, 77.8%) were due to alcoholic liver disease. This is when excessive drinking over many years can cause permanent liver damage.

The second most common cause of death was alcohol-related mental and behavioral disorders. This led to 1,083 deaths and accounts for 12 percent of all deaths. 

Intentional or accidental alcohol poisoning was responsible for 552 deaths. PHE data also shows that alcohol poisoning hospitalisations rose after the lifting of Covid restrictions. 

Other leading causes include alcoholic cardiomyopathy (158 deaths) — a disease where the heart struggles to pump blood around the body — and alcohol-induced acute pancreatitis (129 deaths) — when the pancreas becomes permanently damaged from years of inflammation.

The 2020 number is also higher than in any year since 2001 when records started. There were 10.6 deaths for every 100,000. 

In 2020, the UK average was 33% higher for fatalities in Scotland and Northern Ireland with 19.6 and 21.5 deaths per 100,000. 

England and Wales have continued to experience lower alcohol-related deaths with 13.9 and 13 deaths per 100,000, respectively. 

The greatest year-on-year rise was observed in England where death rates increased by 19.3 percent and Wales where they rose 17.8 percent. 

Sixteen of the nine England regions experienced an increase in alcohol deaths. London was followed closely by London (25.3%) and the South West (32.2%).

The number of alcohol-related deaths in the North East also rose (20. 5 percent), North West (19.4%) and South East (18.5%). 

Within England, there was huge regional disparity, with 9.2 per 100,000 deaths due to alcohol in the East, compared to 20 per 100,000 in the North East — the highest rate out of all regions in England.

And alcohol deaths among men remained more than double the rates for women — 19 per 100,000, compared to nine per 100,000. 

London had the highest death rates for men and women, with 15.1 per 100,000 deaths, while five per 100,000 deaths were recorded for women. 

A third of deaths were from men aged 50-65, with 20 percent occurring among those 45-65 years old.

The risk of alcohol-related death rose in areas with higher levels of poverty, which was four times greater than those living in the most deprived. 

There were 8.2 deaths for men living in the richest areas, and 4.9 deaths for women. That compares with 33.7 fatalities and 14.9 deaths for those who live in the least deprived parts.

A report published in September by the now defunct Public Health England found life expectancy dropped by 0.9 years (1.1 per cent) for women in just one year to 82.7 years. Meanwhile, it fell by 1.3 years (1.6 per cent) for men to 78.7 year. Both figures are the biggest fall ever recorded. The agency noted there had been an 'unprecedented' rise in deaths caused by alcohol use, up 20 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019

Public Health England published a September report that found women’s life expectancy had dropped by 0.9 year (1.1%) in one year, to 82.7. For men, the decline was 1.3 years (1.6%) to 78.7year. These figures represent the largest ever recorded fall. It was noted that there has been an unprecedented rise in deaths due to alcohol consumption, which rose 20% in 2020 in comparison with 2019.

James Tucker, head of health and life events analysis at the ONS, said: ‘There were almost 9,000 alcohol-specific deaths registered in 2020 – this represents the biggest year on year increase seen since our records began in 2001.

“There will many complicated factors behind the increased risk since spring 2020. 

Boris Johnson advises drug addicts of the middle classes that he won’t’sit by’ while they finance crime. 

Boris Johnson warned middle class drug users he will not sit ‘idly by’ and let them fund crime today as he unveiled a £300million narcotics blitz.

As he was joining police in a dawn raid, the Prime Minister advised recreational drivers that they could lose their driving licenses and passports.

If their numbers are discovered on dealer’s phones, they could also be subject to text message from the police.

Yesterday, Mr Johnson spoke in Liverpool and promised to be’very tough’ on drug gangs that take drugs from the urban centers into more wealthy areas of the country.

He said, “What we are also saying is that we won’t be sitting idly watching when lifestyle users use Class A drugs as well, and we will be taking a tougher approach to them.”

Part of the £300million drugs package would be used to dismantle 2,000 county lines drugs operations, in which criminals exploit vulnerable youngsters to deliver drugs to towns and cities outside the main conurbations.

The strategy will also provide more funding to assist addicts in kicking their habit. 

Sources at the Home Office yesterday denied that this new strategy would lead to less users going to prison.

The overall cost of drugs crime is estimated at £20billion a year.

Public Health England’s analysis of consumption has revealed that there have been changes in the patterns of consumption since the outbreak coronavirus pandemic. This could have resulted in hospital admissions or even deaths.

“We also saw an increase in loneliness, depression, and anxiety since the pandemic. This could be another factor. 

“But, we will need to take some time before fully understanding the effects of them all.”

MailOnline spoke with Mr Hamilton about his addiction expertise. He said that the Covid epidemic hasn’t helped this shocking increase in deaths from alcohol-related causes. 

“We are aware that many people, who had been drinking high levels of alcohol before the outbreak, increased their alcohol consumption. This, in turn, added to the known health risks. Tragically, too many have lost their lives.

“At that time, these people required specialist treatment services. These were either unavailable or moved to a virtual offer rather than an in-person service. 

“This is undoubtedly contributing to the increase in deaths today because timely support and no face-to-face assistance was available.”

The figures come after the Government yesterday announced £780million in funding will be invested over the next decade in England’s drug treatment services.

The Department of Health and Social Care stated that the cash would improve treatment access and increase patient capacity. It will also reduce drug abuse. 

Hamilton claimed that Hamilton was more concerned with drug abuse than alcohol. Hamilton said the government’s plans didn’t recognize alcohol’s growing harm to society. He called it a missed chance. 

Hamilton stated that the only intervention made by them on alcohol was to maintain uninterrupted supply. He also said, “Licenses are essential services just like pharmacy.” 

“The Government must immediately outline how it will tackle the record-breaking number of alcohol-related deaths and not just spend its time on populist policies to increase alcohol access.

Annabelle Bonus is Drinkaware’s Director for Evidence and Impact. She stated: “The shocking increase in alcohol-specific deaths are stark evidence of how the pandemic has affected people’s drinking habits.” 

While there is still much to learn about why this happened, we found worrying trends in our research. One-third (30%) of high risk drinkers continued drinking more than they did before the pandemic. It suggests many behaviors have been ingrained. 

“To stop more deaths and to address inequalities, the government should place harm reduction of alcohol at the center of its public health priorities.”