Liver disease crisis among younger people linked to alcohol and obesity

Alcohol and obesity are driving a crisis in liver disease among younger people, new figures suggest.

A "liver atlas" published by Public Health England (PHE) shows the rate at which people die early from liver disease is almost eight times higher in some parts of England than others.

Almost all cases of liver disease can be prevented. Alcohol, obesity and hepatitis B and C - which are linked to drug use and unprotected sex in some cases - account for up to 90% of cases.

(PA graphic)
(PA graphic)

The new atlas shows the rate at which people die from liver disease before the age of 75 ranges from 3.9 per 100,000 people in South Norfolk to 30.1 per 100,000 in Blackpool - which has the highest avoidable death rate from liver disease.

Blackpool is followed by north Manchester, Wolverhampton, Liverpool and Blackburn with Darwen when it comes to high rates of early death.

Meanwhile, hospital admission rates for cirrhosis of the liver have doubled over the last decade across England, from 54.8 per 100,000 to 108.4 per 100,000 people. And hospital admissions for alcohol are concentrated in some of the poorest regions in England.

Liver disease is responsible for almost 12% of deaths in men aged 40 to 49.

Professor Julia Verne, head of clinical epidemiology at PHE, said: "Chronic liver disease is a silent killer of young adults, creeping up and showing itself when it's often too late. However, around 90% of liver disease is preventable."

Vanessa Hebditch, director of communications and policy at the British Liver Trust, said: "Across the UK we are facing a liver disease crisis. People are dying of liver damage younger and younger, with the average age of death now being mid-50s. It is also becoming more and more common for liver units to have much younger individuals waiting for a liver transplant or dying on the wards.

"This data shows that not only do we need to ensure that there are excellent and consistent liver services across the country but that need to be diagnosed much earlier to obtain effective care, treatment and support as soon as possible."