Hospital admissions for alcohol-related illnesses 'higher in areas with more pubs', say Sheffield academics

Hospital admissions.
Hospital admissions.
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Hospital admissions for alcohol-related emergency care and chronic illness are significantly higher in areas with the most pubs, bars and clubs, according to researchers at the University of Sheffield.

The report, published in the journal Addiction, also found the density of restaurants and other outlets selling alcohol was also linked to admission rates in England.

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Authorities have been urged to consider the impact of licensing decisions on hospitals in light of the research.

Researchers from the University of Sheffield analysed data from more than one million hospital admissions attributable to alcohol over a 12-year period.

Areas in England with the most pubs, bars and nightclubs had 22 per cent higher hospital admission rates for chronic conditions linked to drinking, such as liver disease, compared with those with the lowest density of alcohol vendors.

They also had 13 per cent higher admission rates for acute conditions, such as vomiting, caused by alcohol, the research found.

Lead author Ravi Maheswaran, professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Sheffield, said: "The strongest link was between pubs, bars and nightclubs and admissions for alcoholic liver disease.

"We also observed an association between restaurants licensed to sell alcohol and hospital admissions, which we had not expected.

"This needs further investigation to establish if there is a causal link."

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Areas in England with the highest density of licensed restaurants had nine per cent higher rates of people requiring treatment for both acute and chronic conditions caused by alcohol, the research found.

Those with the most outlets such as hotels, casinos and sports clubs had 19 per cent higher admission rates for severe alcohol-related illnesses.

There was just a modest link between supermarkets and hospital admissions, but rates of those requiring emergency treatment were 10 per cent higher in places with lots of convenience stores, the research found.

Professor Maheswaran said: "Although we have observed clear associations between alcohol outlet densities and hospital admissions, our study cannot confirm if these associations are causally linked.

"However, there is emerging evidence from other studies suggesting that local licensing enforcement could reduce alcohol-related harms."

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Dr James Nicholls, director of research and policy development at Alcohol Research UK, which funded the study, said: "Understanding the relationship between outlet density and alcohol hospital admissions is essential to reducing harm.

"Local licensing authorities, in particular, need to factor this information into their decisions."