Evening wine drinkers have contributed to a rise in liver disease cases, which have increased by five times since the 1970s, latest research identifies.

A new study has discovered that roughly 30% of individuals who are diagnosed with liver disease after being admitted to hospital in an emergency end up losing their life within a year.

Latest health figures show that a significant number of liver disease cases are diagnosed late, putting thousands of people at risk of health complications or death.

Experts are now urging people to ‘wake up’ and alter their lifestyle behaviours, including reducing their alcohol intake. They are also keen to detect liver disease early by calling for more liver ultrasounds.

During the study, the team of researchers analysed hospital records to detect individuals who were diagnosed with chronic liver disease after an emergency hospital admission.

Each year in England, approximately 30,000 emergency admissions were caused by chronic liver disease, with 13,000 of these people living with the condition undiagnosed before being admitted.

According to the findings presented at the British Association for the Study of the Liver (BASL) conference in Brighton, around 17% of people hospitalised with chronic liver disease died in hospital.

In addition, the results show that 34% of the people hospitalised with chronic liver disease were readmitted within a month.

First author Dr Jessica King said: “Our analysis of all hospital records from across England allows us to measure the full scale of this problem for the first time.

“The initial results are stark: the numbers of patients diagnosed in an emergency is increasing, but survival has improved very little.”

She added: “So far, we’ve only looked at the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the picture may look even worse with the disruption to health services and increased alcohol use during that time.”

Every year in the UK, more than 10,000 people died from chronic liver disease, making it one of the top causes of death in adults under the age of 65 years old.

Director of Policy at the British Liver Trust, Vanessa Hebditch said: “People wrongly believe they are not at risk.

“People have got this sort of misconception that you need to be an alcoholic to have liver disease. But, actually you can have many of us are drinking at levels that can really cause harm.”

She added: “If you’re drinking half a bottle of wine every night, which is easy to do with a glass while you’re cooking, another with dinner and maybe a third while watching TV, then you’re drinking at a potentially harmful rate.

“‘It really is ingrained in our culture now – that you can go and have prosecco for breakfast. The other key driver is fatty liver disease and the big risk factors for that are being overweight and also having type two diabetes and we know how the prevalence of that has gone up.”

She concluded: “Better early detection is needed through such things as enabling GPs to carry out more fibroscans, a type of ultrasound which measures liver stiffness and changes to the liver.”

Co-author Professor William Bernal, of the Institute of Liver Studies, Kings College Hospital, said: “These new findings confirm the understanding of clinicians treating people with liver disease. Many present with advanced disease for the first time, and outcomes can be very poor.

“There is a clear need for early detection, and prevention, of chronic liver disease, as well as better inpatient care. The next steps for our team are to work out what sort of care is linked to the best survival.”

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