Early Liver Disease Hits Epidemic Levels in England

By Luke Walker 12/06/11

Liver-related hospital admissions soar, especially among the young.

Starting young can be disastrous. Photo via

Liver disease caused by alcohol abuse has rocketed in England in recent years; ad campaigns targeting children, cultural tolerance of binge drinking and easy access to cheap booze are all blamed. Brits start younger, drink more often and consume more than before. The greatest increase is among 25 to 29-year-olds. NHS data from 2009-2010 shows 291 men and 188 women in that age group were treated for alcohol related liver damage—up 60% and 88% respectively since 2002-2003. All this is prompting accusations that the media and advertising are fueling the drinking culture. "The earlier the age at which children drink, and the more they drink, the greater the chance of developing serious liver disease in adult life," says Newcastle University Hospital liver specialist Chris Record. "Many patients are now presenting with terminal liver disease in their late 20s and early 30s. Only a few years ago alcoholic liver disease was very unusual in this age group." Stats published by Balance, a health campaign group in northern England, show a 400% increase in liver disease in young adults. Balance is calling for a stop to children "swimming through 40% proof advertising." Government officials have pledged to strengthen laws governing alcohol advertising in cinemas and sponsorship of sporting events in the run-up to the London Olympics next year.

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