Poor areas 'hit harder by alcohol'

Poorer communities have substantially higher levels of alcohol-related ill health, anti-social behaviour and premature deaths than their wealthier neighbours, research has suggested.

Although data shows that there are drink-related problems across all communities, people living in England's most deprived local authorities are more likely to suffer than those living in the more affluent ones.

Children under 18 are 129% more likely to be admitted to hospital for an alcohol-specific condition, such as as alcoholic liver disease, in poorer communities compared with the most affluent ones, according to data from the North West Public Health Observatory on behalf of the Public Health Observatories in England.

Researchers compared data from the 30 most affluent local authorities with the 30 most deprived local authorities and found that poorer people are more likely to die from an alcohol-related illness. Men in poor neighbourhoods are 72% more likely and women are 58% more likely to die from an alcohol-related condition than in rich ones.

The local authority with the highest rate of alcohol attributable-deaths for men was Hastings, with a rate of 74 deaths per 100,000 people in 2010, the figures showed. For women, the highest rate was in Preston, with 33 alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 people in a year.

The data also found that alcohol-related crimes are 158% higher and adults are 362% more likely to be on incapacity benefit as a result of alcoholism in poorer communities.

Clare Perkins, deputy director of the North West Public Health Observatory, said: "The impact of alcohol is a major driver in the health inequalities we see across England. The Government's plans to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol should be an important feature not only in tackling the harms caused by alcohol but also in addressing the overall health gap between the richest and poorest."

Professor Mark Bellis, director of the North West Public Health Observatory, said: "More work is needed to identify how differences in drinking patterns and in drinkers themselves contribute to alcohol causing so much harm to the health of our poorest communities. We will be examining this in more detail over the next year."

A government spokesman said: "Alcohol causes misery for too many people - that's why earlier this year we set out radical plans to reduce excessive drinking, close problem premises and crack down on alcohol-fuelled crime and disorder.

"This includes setting a minimum unit price which could mean around 50,000 fewer crimes a year and 900 fewer deaths a year by the end of the decade and working with industry through the Responsibility Deal to take a billion units out of the market. "From next year, local authorities will receive a specific public health budget for the first time that will target funding at the areas that need it most."