Shock rise in alcohol liver disease

  • Niall Hunter, Editor

Death rates from alcoholic liver disease (ALD) in Ireland have seen a massive increase during the Celtic Tiger years, according to a new study.

The mortality rate (per 100,000 population aged 15 and over) among patients treated in hospital for ALD was 2.6 in 1995 and 7.5 in 2009, an increase of 188%.

"We have a situation where there is a massive industry based around alcohol yet none of the money is put into harm reduction. There should be some sort of levy on alcohol advertisements or off licence sales to fund research for better treatment," said Dr Aiden McCormick, Chairman of the Irish Society Gastroenterology.

Research carried out by Dr McCormick and Dr Deirdre Mongan of the Health Research Board, has shown a startling increase in alcoholic liver disease (ALD) between 1995 and 2009.

The results of this research will be presented today at the Irish Society of Gastroenterology winter conference in Dublin.

Dr McCormick said there has been a massive increase in ALD which reflected what was happening in society and the changing patterns of drinking.

"The death levels among the younger age group are fairly low, but have dramatically increased. We can also expect that mortality rates will increase in the older age groups as the cohort who were drinking heavily when younger get older."

The research, which focused on trends in the occurrences of ALD, showed that there were 27,816 hospital discharges with a diagnosis of ALD between 1995 and 2009. The rate of ALD discharges (per 100,000 adults) increased by 201%, from 28.3 in 1995 to 85.1 in 2009.

The study shows that there were considerable increases in ALD rates across all age groups, but most significantly among the younger age groups.

Dr McCormick said there was now a higher mortality rate amongst those with ALD than with heart attacks, but there were very few resources available to deal with the problem.


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