For many, it’s a reward for getting through another stressful day.
But Britain’s “wine o’clock” culture is part of an alarming trend that has seen deaths from chronic liver disease quintuple since the 1970s.
New research has found that more than a third of people diagnosed after an emergency hospital admission die within a year.
The data reveals the “alarming” extent of late diagnosis: thousands of people only find out they have it when it is too late.
Experts said the findings should serve as a “wake-up call” to change lifestyle factors associated with the disease, namely alcohol and obesity, and called for more liver ultrasounds for early detection.
Experts fear Britain’s “wine o’clock” culture is part of an alarming trend that has seen deaths from chronic liver disease quintuple since the 1970s (file image)
Researchers used anonymized hospital records to identify people for whom an emergency hospital admission was the first sign that they had chronic liver disease.
The researchers found that of 30,000 emergency admissions caused by chronic liver disease a year in England, 13,000 were patients diagnosed for the first time.
One in six patients (17 percent) died in hospital and 37 percent had died within a year of emergency admission.
Of those who left hospital, 34 per cent were readmitted within a month, according to findings presented at the British Association for the Study of the Liver (BASL) conference in Brighton.
Dr Jessica King, assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “Our analysis of all hospital records from across England allows us to measure the full scale of this problem for the first time.
«The initial results are clear: the number of patients diagnosed urgently is increasing, but survival has improved very little.
“So far, we have only looked at the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the picture may look even worse with the disruption of health services and increased alcohol consumption during that time.”
Chronic liver disease kills more than 10,000 people a year in the UK and is a leading cause of death among under-65s.
Unlike many other diseases, rates are increasing due to alcohol consumption and obesity, both leading causes.
Vanessa Hebditch, policy director at the British Liver Trust, said people mistakenly believe they are not at risk.
She said: “People have the misconception that you need to be an alcoholic to have liver disease.” But in reality many of us may be drinking at levels that can actually cause harm.
“If you drink half a bottle of wine every night, which is easy to do with one glass while cooking, another during dinner and maybe a third while watching TV, then you are drinking at a potentially harmful rate.
‘It’s really ingrained in our culture now: that you can go and have prosecco for breakfast.
“The other key factor is fatty liver disease and the big risk factors are being overweight and also type two diabetes, and we know how its prevalence has increased.”
He said better early detection is needed through things like allowing GPs to perform more fibroscans, a type of ultrasound that measures liver stiffness and changes in the liver.
Professor William Bernal from the Institute of Liver Studies at Kings College Hospital, who led the study, said: “These new findings confirm the understanding of doctors who treat people with liver disease. ‘Many present with advanced disease for the first time and The results can be very bad.
‘There is a clear need for early detection and prevention of chronic liver disease, as well as better hospital care. Our team’s next steps are to determine what type of care is linked to better survival.’
DO YOU DRINK TOO MUCH ALCOHOL? THE 10 QUESTIONS THAT REVEAL YOUR RISK
A screening tool widely used by medical professionals is the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Testing). Developed in collaboration with the World Health Organization, the 10-question test is considered the gold standard to help determine if someone has alcohol abuse problems.
The test has been reproduced here with permission from the WHO.
To complete it, answer each question and write down the corresponding score.
0-7: You are within the range of reasonable alcohol consumption and are at low risk for alcohol-related problems.
Over 8: Indicates harmful or dangerous consumption.
8-15: Medium risk level. Drinking at your current level puts you at risk of developing problems with your health and your life in general, such as work and relationships. Consider cutting back (see tips below).
16-19: Increased risk of complications from alcohol. Cutting back on your own may be difficult at this level as you may be dependent, so you may need professional help from your GP and/or a counsellor.
20 and over: Possible dependency. Your alcohol consumption is already causing you problems and it is very possible that you are dependent. You should definitely consider stopping drinking gradually or at least reducing your alcohol consumption. You should seek professional help to determine the level of your dependence and the safest way to quit alcohol.
Severe dependence may require medically assisted withdrawal or detoxification in a hospital or specialized clinic. This is due to the likelihood of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms occurring in the first 48 hours requiring specialized treatment.