Big rise in alcohol deaths in Shropshire during first year of pandemic
Alcohol caused the death of dozens of people across Shropshire during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.
Deaths directly caused by excess drinking soared by a record 20 per cent across England in 2020, with thousands of people losing their lives to alcohol consumption.
The "devastating increase" is stark evidence of the pandemic's impact on people's drinking patterns, according to charities Drinkaware and Alcohol Change UK.
Public Health England data shows 53 people from the Shropshire Council area were among the 6,985 who died from alcohol-specific causes across the country last year.
That is up from 42 recorded in 2019.
In Telford and Wrekin, it rose to 19 people from 15 recorded in 2019.
Dr Richard Piper, chief executive of Alcohol Change UK, said as many as one in four people drank more in 2020, with some picking up habits that could prove hard to break.
He called for high-quality, early support for those struggling, adding: "Evidence shows that, for many people, the pandemic and the restrictions placed on our daily lives led to an increase in drinking.
"Any one of us can find ourselves drinking harmfully and everyone deserves to live a full life free from the harm caused by alcohol."
He added: “The harm caused by alcohol goes beyond this unacceptable, avoidable loss of life.
"Millions more suffer from worsened mental and physical health every day as a result of harmful drinking."
The figures suggest 13 in every 100,000 people in England died solely because of alcohol abuse last year – the rate in Shropshire was higher at 15 but lower in Telford and Wrekin at 11.
During that time, authorities registered a total of 20,500 deaths nationally that were either wholly or partially related to alcohol consumption – 137 people lost their lives for this reason in Shropshire and 63 in Telford and Wrekin.
Annabelle Bonus, Drinkaware's director for evidence and impact, said damaging drinking habits picked up during periods of lockdown may have become ingrained.
She said: "To prevent more lives being destroyed and help address inequalities, the Government must place alcohol harm reduction at the centre of public health priorities."
A spokesman for the Department for Health and Social care said alcohol misuse could have a tragic impact and said the Government is committed to supporting those at risk.
He added: “We have announced the largest ever increase in substance misuse treatment and recovery funding, with a £780 million of additional investment over the next three years.
“Work is already underway to address alcohol-related health harms, their impact on people’s life chances and to reduce associated inequalities, including establishing specialist alcohol care teams in hospitals and supporting children of alcohol-dependent parents.”