Alcohol is killing people in their 20s and 30s: doctor

Kimberly Gillan
Friday, February 8, 2013
Image: Thinkstock

A top UK doctor has warned that young people need to reduce their binge drinking after stats showed chronic liver disease is killing more people in their 20s than ever before.

Alcohol-related hospital admissions have doubled at Dr Mark Aldersley's hospital in Leeds, and Australian experts warn there was a 10-fold increase in liver disease in people in their 20s between 1993 and 2005.

"There was a reduction in mortality in Australia but an increase in disease," Michael Thorn, the CEO of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, told ninemsn.

"The reduction in deaths is largely due to better medical interventions –– we're better at detecting the disease early and treating it with things like liver transplants."

But Dr Steve Hambleton, president of the Australian Medical Association, told ninemsn that Australian health trends tend to follow the UK and US.

"Alcohol has a direct toxic effect on liver cells," he said.

New UK figures show that people who think they are moderate drinkers actually consume 40 percent more alcohol than they realised.

Of those who believe they are "moderate" drinkers, 60 percent say they have no intention to reduce their intake.

In Australia, 80 percent of alcohol consumed by 14—24-year-olds is consumed in a way that puts their health –– or others' health –– at risk.

"Our researchers have also identified an increase of young people drinking in excess of 10 drinks on a single occasion," Thorn said.

"It takes time before the symptoms of liver disease show up and they can manifest themselves in different ways."

While binge drinking is obviously dangerous, Thorn said drinking at home can be just as deadly.

"Based on the total volume of alcohol that is consumed each year, it averages out to 2.3 standard drinks per adult per day on average. But considering 20 percent of the population don't drink at all, it's more than that," Thorn said.

It's not uncommon for couples to open a bottle each night, but Dr Hambleton pointed out it quickly takes you over the recommended two drinks a day.

"The average bottle of wine has about 7.8 standard drinks, so if you split that in half, both people are drinking more than the recommended amounts," he said.

"Alcohol-free days are a really good idea."

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