Healthy living

Deaths from liver disease at an all-time high

Deaths from liver disease at an all-time high More than a third linked to alcohol

Deaths from liver disease in England have reached an all-time high, rising by more than a quarter in the past eight years, NHS figures have revealed.

A new report by the National End of Life Care Intelligence Network found that 11,575 people died from liver disease in 2009, compared with 9,231 people in 2001.

Alcohol, obesity and hepatitis are thought to be behind the rise, with more than a third of deaths being caused by alcohol consumption.

The latest figures are in contrast to other major causes of death such as heart disease and cancer, which have been declining in recent years, the authors of the report said.

Liver disease disproportionately kills people at a much younger age, the report stated. Some 90 per cent of people who die from liver disease are under 70, while more than one in 10 deaths of all people in their 40s were caused by a liver condition.

Alcohol-related liver disease accounted for more than a third (37%) of all deaths from liver conditions. Some 41 per cent of liver disease deaths in men and 30 per cent in women were caused by heavy drinking.

Death from alcohol-related liver disease was more common in deprived areas of England: 44 per cent of liver disease deaths occurred in the most deprived areas compared with 28 per cent in the least deprived ones.

Because of the complex needs of many patients with liver disease, more than two thirds die in hospital, compared with 55 per cent of deaths from all other causes, the report stated.

Professor Martin Lombard, national clinical director for liver disease, said: "This report makes for stark reading about the needs of people dying with liver disease.

"Over 70 per cent end up dying in hospital and this report is timely in helping us understand the challenges in managing end of life care for this group of people.

"The key drivers for increasing numbers of deaths from liver disease are all preventable, such as alcohol, obesity, hepatitis C and hepatitis B. We must focus our efforts and tackle this problem sooner rather than later."

Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said that too many people are still being diagnosed with liver disease in the late stages of disease, and called for more to be done in preventing liver conditions through alcohol pricing, taxing high fat foods and testing for viral hepatitis.

He said: "This report clearly highlights that liver patients have been, and continue to be, failed by our healthcare system.

"Liver disease has remained the poor relation in comparison to other big killers such as cancer and heart disease, yet liver disease is the only big killer on the rise.

"The increasing numbers of people with, and dying from, liver disease leaves the UK at breaking point and we cannot afford to overlook these patients any longer."

This article was published on Thu 22 March 2012

Image © Yurok Aleksandrovich -

Related Stories

Use this story

Alcohol misuse
Link to this page
Printer friendly version

Share this page