Baby boomer boozers 'most likely to fall ill'
More "baby boomers" are being admitted to hospital with alcohol-related health problems than any other age group, new figures have revealed.
A report by charity Alcohol Concern showed that 132,532 people in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland were treated for injuries and illnesses caused by booze in 2010-11.
It cost the NHS an estimated £43.8 million to treat them.
The number of people treated represents accident and emergency patients, inpatients and outpatients. However, age group breakdowns were only available for in-patients.
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These showed that more people aged 55 to 74, the bracket which includes many of the post-Second World War baby boom generation, were treated than any other age group – 6,973 in total.
In contrast, the smallest group was those aged 16 to 24, with 917 patients.
The 25 to 54 age group had 6,085 inpatients and the over-75s had 4,537.
Eric Appleby, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: "It is the common perception that young people are responsible for the increasing cost of alcohol misuse.
"But our findings show that this is not the case. It is the middle-aged, and often middle-class, drinker, regularly drinking above recommended limits, who is requiring complex and expensive NHS care."
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, president of the British Gastroenterology Society, said: "It is the unwitting chronic middle-aged drinkers who are taking serious risks with their health. They present in hospital with conditions attributable to their alcohol consumption, such as stroke, heart disease, cancer and liver disease.
"People simply do not realise that chronic drinking significantly increases their chances of suffering health problems."
However, doctors at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said they believed the figures might be an overestimate.
Dr Anna Marquiss, a specialist doctor in emergency medicine at the infirmary, said: "The number of patients admitted to hospital due to alcohol-related harm is difficult to pin down.
"It can include someone who has been hit or hurt by someone who was drunk."
A recent study by Dr Marquiss and her colleagues found that in 10 separate 24-hour periods, 280 patients out of 3,956 received treatment in casualty for injuries or health problems related to alcohol.
Work is under way to try and estimate the costs to the NHS.
Dr Marquiss said: "I have been working in A&E for 20 years and seen a huge increase in the number of people coming in due to alcohol problems.
"I think alcohol catches up with people.
"It is not that people are getting really drunk, just drinking more frequently.
"Also, life is difficult out there at the moment and there will be people who have a bit of a drink because things are hard."
In 2009, an alcohol liaison worker was taken on to help identify patients with drink problems coming in to hospital. There are now two more.
Dr Marquiss said: "There is obviously a problem with alcohol but I am not sure that it is on as large a scale as the figures from Alcohol Concern suggest."