Deaths directly caused by excess drinking soared by a record 20% across England in 2020, with thousands of people losing their lives to alcohol consumption.
The “devastating increase” is stark evidence of the pandemic’s impact on people’s drinking patterns, according to charities Drinkaware and Alcohol Change UK.
That is down from 22 recorded in 2019.
Dr Richard Piper, chief executive of Alcohol Change UK, said as many as one in four people drank more in 2020, with some picking up habits that could prove hard to break.
He called for high-quality, early support for those struggling, adding: “Evidence shows that, for many people, the pandemic and the restrictions placed on our daily lives led to an increase in drinking.
“Any one of us can find ourselves drinking harmfully and everyone deserves to live a full life free from the harm caused by alcohol.”
He added: “The harm caused by alcohol goes beyond this unacceptable, avoidable loss of life.
“Millions more suffer from worsened mental and physical health every day as a result of harmful drinking.”
The figures suggest 13 in every 100,000 people in England died solely because of alcohol abuse last year – though the rate in Peterborough was lower, at 11.
During that time, authorities registered a total of 20,500 deaths nationally that were either wholly or partially related to alcohol consumption – 61 people lost their lives for this reason locally.
Annabelle Bonus, Drinkaware’s director for evidence and impact, said damaging drinking habits picked up during periods of lockdown may have become ingrained.
She said: “To prevent more lives being destroyed and help address inequalities, the Government must place alcohol harm reduction at the centre of public health priorities.”
A spokesman for the Department for Health and Social care said alcohol misuse could have a tragic impact and said the Government is committed to supporting those at risk.
He added: “We have announced the largest ever increase in substance misuse treatment and recovery funding, with a £780 million of additional investment over the next three years.
“Work is already underway to address alcohol-related health harms, their impact on people’s life chances and to reduce associated inequalities, including establishing specialist alcohol care teams in hospitals and supporting children of alcohol dependent parents.”