Doncaster men and women in their fifties are causing the most damage to their health by drinking too much alcohol, newly released figures reveal.
The grim tally highlights the risk many people are running, prompting a plea from the borough’s most senior public health official to rethink their drinking habits before it’s too late.
In the 12 months to the end of March 2020, there were 1,817 emergency admissions to Doncaster Royal Infirmary of people with an alcohol specific diagnosis, such as alcohol related liver disease, or alcohol induced acute pancreatitis. Over a quarter of the admissions – 515 (28 per cent) – were men (320) and women (195) aged between 50 and 59, though it’s worth noting that some were multiple admissions by the same person.
They were followed by the borough’s next most at risk group, the 40 to 49s, with 384 admissions (21 per cent) for conditions caused by excessive drinking – 235 men and 149 women.
Public health chiefs are encouraged that the 1,817 admissions amounts to a four year low for the borough, only marginally worse than the 1,810 cases recorded in 2015/16, but stress the downward trend needs to continue.
Dr Rupert Suckling, Doncaster’s Director of Public Health, said: “It’s a positive that the overall trend is steadily reducing but the reality is that far too many Doncaster residents are putting their lives at risk by drinking way above the Government’s safe drinking recommendations.
“This is certainly true in the fifties age group, which are recording the most number of alcohol related admissions across both sexes. The statistics point to Doncaster people starting to drink more in their 40s, increasing their consumption in their 50s and continuing in their 60s.”
In fact, alcohol related hospital admissions for those aged over 65 have risen by 67 per cent in the last 10 years – men by 46 per cent and women by 56 per cent.
Speaking on behalf of Doncaster’s Alcohol Alliance (DAA), a consortium of local agencies working together to tackle issues caused by drinking too much, Dr Suckling added: “We have yet to find out what impact Coronavirus and the lockdown will have had on local alcohol intake. Many people will undoubtedly have been worried and anxious about the situation and that could well have led to increased alcohol consumption.
“Alcohol sales nationally have increased by over 30 per cent in supermarkets and corner shops due to pubs and restaurants being closed, but at this stage we don’t have the evidence to paint a full picture of what has been happening.”
The figures have been published as the DAA pursues a twin-pronged ambition – to gain a better understanding of alcohol consumption in Doncaster and to reassure those who need it that help is at hand if their drinking is spiralling out of control.
An online survey – which ends on Monday 8 June – asks if drinking habits have changed during the lockdown. To confidentially share your thoughts simply visit: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/drinkinghabitsduringlockdown
In tandem with the survey, a new newspaper and online media urges residents to resist increasing their drinking. Rethink your Drink offers advice and support and stresses the possible impact of drinking, not only on local health but also on the NHS, as many accident and emergency attendances are alcohol related.
In the last seven years, there have been nearly 13,000 admissions to Doncaster Royal Infirmary for alcohol-specific health issues – though some of these could be multiple admissions of the same person – The worse year across this period was 2016/17, when 1,996 admissions were recorded.
The problem impacts on all ages. Last year there were 14 admissions of young people aged from 10 to 14, while at the other end of the life cycle, some 11 people in their eighties followed a similar route.
A Doncaster Alcohol Needs Assessment, published in September 2019, found the health harms associated with alcohol consumption in the borough are widespread, with 17.8 per cent of the adult population drinking at increasing risk and 11.2 per cent at higher risk of alcohol related illness.
The report’s findings included:
Councillor Nigel Ball, Doncaster Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health, Leisure and Culture, said: “There is an excellent service in Doncaster – Aspire – that has a track record of helping people overcome an alcohol problem. Many of those admitted to hospital are asked if they would like help and, sadly many refuse or agree and then don’t follow up. Please seek help if you need it, they are waiting, you shouldn’t.”