Why has cirrhosis increased so much in the UK?
You may have seen the reports in the press this week detailing how the UK has fallen from 1990 to 2010 in league tables of comparing the nations health with other countries. Even though our overall life expectancy has increased by over 4 years, we have far worse figures for premature death in the age group 20-54.BBC 'UK Fares Badly In Health League Table'
The original report from the Lancet can also be seen here;
What leapt out of the study for me was the statistic concerning the rise in deaths due to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver usually due to long term damage from alcohol or viruses such as hepatitis). The study said that between 1990 and 2010 the premature deaths (for 20 to 54 year olds) contributed by cirrhosis had increased by a staggering 65%. This contributed to our falling to 12th in the league table which compared us to Europe and the USA.
Many other reports have detailed how as a nation the UK is drinking more, from a younger age and for greater time and doctors have feared the consequences being reflected in our health as a nation. Cirrhosis is a longer term problem caused by heavy drinking and it is only now that we are beginning to see the effects come through of our nationwide changes in lifestyle.
The fear is that if we do not succesfully reduce levels of alcohol consumption and effectively treat those with alcohol dependence then this could be the first of many worrying statistics that see us fall further in international tables, costing many wasted lives.
Delphi and others are making advances in providing better, faster treatment for alcohol and working with peer-supported recovery organisations in increasing our success rates. Our real success will come from encouraging healthier attitudes to alcohol in our society (such as the 5 Ways To Wellbeing approaches), and better joined up working between the NHS and other organisations.
Interestingly the research was funded by Bill & Melissa Gates. Next time your Windows computer crashes just reassure yourself you are doing your bit to help society-changing medical research