ALCOHOL and obesity have fuelled a staggering fourfold increase in liver disease in Scotland since the 1980s, a new report reveals.
Almost 150 Scots out of 100,000 now suffer from chronic liver disease (CLD).
In 1982, the figure was 41.5, according to an NHS report.
The statistics suggest that around 2,000 Scots were diagnosed with CLD in 1982 compared with around 7,500 a year now.
The disease is marked by the gradual destruction of liver tissue over time, and is now the third commonest form of premature death in the UK – with the average age of death standing at just 59.
The report, published by the Scottish NHS Statistical Services Division, also shows that CLD mortality rates are almost five times higher in the most deprived fifth of the population.
Health charities have said that the newest figures are a great cause of concern.
Tam Fry, a spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said: “Tragically, this rise will come as no shock to anyone working in clinical medicine. Liver disease is escalating faster than any other non-communicable condition.
“It is very concerning because it could so easily be prevented if thousands took more control over the amount that they eat or drink. They all appear to gamble that it will not be them that die prematurely from over-consumption of both.
“But they should sit up and take notice. If they persist on bingeing on either food or alcohol, their days could be numbered.”
The Lancet Commission, published last month, warned that rising numbers of deaths from liver disease will be unavoidable without radical improvements in treatment and detection services, and called for a drastic scale-up of these facilities.
The Commission also showed that 1 in 10 people will experience liver disease at some stage in their lifetime, and that primary care services for early detection are virtually non-existent.
A spokeswoman for the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation said: “It is important that people who have the ability to prevent the disease take the steps to do so. We deal primarily with children who are either born with the disease or develop it early on in life through no fault of their own.
“We are very concerned that unless this massive increase in the rate of adult liver disease can be controlled, there are serious implications for the children and young adults whom we support.”
The NHS report also shows that between 2011 and 2013, CLD mortality rates were almost five times higher in the most deprived fifth of the population compared with the least deprived.
Last year, Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said: “The death and suffering caused by CLD is far too high and much of the blame lies with our relationship to alcohol. Cheap alcohol comes at a cost to our nation’s health and we need to reduce the toll alcohol is taking on our society.
“It is unacceptable to see that Scotland ranks amongst the worst countries in Europe for CLD. Alcohol misuse costs Scotland £3.6billion per year. That’s £900 per adult whether they drink or not that could be put to better use.
“The affordability of drinks with high levels of alcohol is a particular problem we must address and minimum unit pricing is a key part of the solution. The policy will target heavy drinkers of cheap, high strength alcohol. In other words, those most likely to develop CLD.”