Rates of mortality due to cirrhosis of the liver are an important indicator of population levels of alcohol harm.
Total recorded alcohol consumption in Britain doubled between 1960 and 2002, giving rise to a need to examine and assess cirrhosis mortality trends.
Professor David Leon and Dr Jim McCambridge from England calculated mortality rates for all ages for cirrhosis of the liver.
Rates were directly age-standardized to the European standard population.
The research team compared the standardized rates with rates from 12 western European countries between 1955 and 2001.
| Cirrhosis mortality in men in England and Wales rose by 69% and 104% in Scotland
The team found that cirrhosis mortality rates increased steeply in Britain during the 1990s.
Between the periods 1987 to 1991, and 1997 to 2001, cirrhosis mortality in men in Scotland more than doubled, with an increase of 104%.
During the same time period, the team observed that cirrhosis mortality in men in England and Wales rose by 69%.
Mortality in women increased by almost half, by 46% in Scotland and 44% in England and Wales.
These relative increases are the steepest in western Europe.
The team noted that the increases contrast with the declines apparent in most other countries examined, particularly those of southern Europe.
Cirrhosis mortality rates in Scotland are now amongst the highest in western Europe, in 2002 being 45% in men and 20% in women.
Professor Leon and colleague conclude, “Current alcohol policies in Britain should be assessed by the extent to which they can successfully halt the adverse trends in liver cirrhosis mortality.”
“The situation in Scotland warrants particular attention.”