The number of alcohol-related deaths have hit an all-time high, rising by almost a third in the region with experts blaming the latest rise on the pandemic. 

In East Anglia, the latest statistics revealed that alcohol-specific deaths have risen by 30.2% in the past five years. 

The data, released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), specifically relates to deaths caused by diseases known to be a direct consequence of alcohol.

Norwich Evening News: The alcohol-specific death rate for 2021 was 25.4% higher than 2019The alcohol-specific death rate for 2021 was 25.4% higher than 2019 (Image: Office of National Statistics)

What the data tell us 

Statistician James Tucker, data and analysis for Social Care and Health Division at the ONS, said: "Alcohol-specific deaths have risen sharply since the onset of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, with alcoholic liver disease the leading cause of these deaths.    

“This rise is likely to be the result of increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic.   

“Research has suggested that people who were already drinking at higher levels before the pandemic were the most likely to have increased their alcohol consumption during this period."

Norwich Evening News: The figures have hit an all-time highThe figures have hit an all-time high (Image: Newsquest)

The figures in detail  

The number of people who died from abusing alcohol in 2021 nationally was 9,641, a rise of 7.4% from 2020 and the highest number on record.   

This means alcohol-specific deaths were up by more than a quarter (27.4%) from 2019, the last pre-coronavirus pandemic year. Before this, those rates had remained stable with no statistically significant changes.

Norwich Evening News: Alcohol-specific deaths registered in East Anglia since 2017Alcohol-specific deaths registered in East Anglia since 2017 (Image: Flourish)

In East Anglia, the number of people who died from abusing alcohol in 2021 was 641, rising by 12.4% from 570 deaths in 2020. The region joins the national statistics of being the highest number on record. 

The region’s alcohol-specific deaths were up by almost a fifth (18%) from 2019 and a third (30.2%) from five years previously in 2017.

Norwich Evening News: Compared with the pre-coronavirus pandemic period, alcohol-specific death rates have risen in all four UK countriesCompared with the pre-coronavirus pandemic period, alcohol-specific death rates have risen in all four UK countries (Image: Flourish)

Rates of alcohol-specific death have risen in every region of England since 2019 

The statistics also revealed that in 2021, East Anglia saw its highest number of male deaths since the pandemic, rising 13.7% from 370 deaths in 2019 to 421 in 2021. 

Charities are witnessing the rise first-hand 

Graham Parfitt is the Next Steps Manager for the Matthew Project, a specialist drug and alcohol service for children, young people and their families across Norfolk from its Recovery Hub in Norwich. 

He said: “Since opening the Hub in 2019, 346 adults have accessed support and just over half of these have been related to alcohol use; 64% of those supported are male.

“Numbers are increasing. In 2021 we, started working with 86 new people. In 2022, we have worked with 138 new people.

Norwich Evening News: Graham Parfitt, recovery hub manager of the Next Steps recovery hub, run by the Matthew Project, on Oak Street, Norwich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

"The impact of covid, and the cost-of-living crisis; the stresses that people are under, and the availability of alcohol have all undoubtedly contributed to an increase in alcohol sales.” 

He added that problematic alcohol use is not a point that anyone chooses and emphasised that help and advice are available. 

READ MORE: Fears drug and alcohol addiction in Norfolk could rise

“Loneliness and isolation and a lack of something meaningful to do are significant risks to someone being able to sustain their recovery from problematic substance use.  

“Over 90% of those who have been supported remain in recovery. Nationally, relapse rates for substance misuse is around 50%, with alcohol around 90% under four years of sobriety, so the benefits of community-based recovery support is obvious.” 

'I thought I would die' - The journey of recovery 

Billie Dee Gianfrancesco, daughter of former Norwich-based noughties daytime chat show host, Trisha Goddard, echoed that ethos. 

The 33-year-old has spent the past six years in recovery and described how regularly “checking in” is a lifeline for her.

Norwich Evening News: Billie Dee Gianfrancesco (left) pictured with her mum, daytime chat show host, Trisha Goddard.Billie Dee Gianfrancesco (left) pictured with her mum, daytime chat show host, Trisha Goddard. (Image: Submitted)

She said: “I still get regular support as even though I’m fine now, I won’t stop going as it's just easier to keep on top of it. 

“With alcohol, you can end up drinking more and more and quickly you have a problem. It can just snowball. It’s not just socially accepted but it’s also actively encouraged.” 

The freelance PR consultant had previously faced a 16-year battle with drink and drugs and was aged just 12 when she first tasted alcohol on a family holiday.  

She tried to take her own life at 17 and was given a bleak health diagnosis during her 20s.

Norwich Evening News: Billie Dee GianfrancescoBillie Dee Gianfrancesco (Image: Submitted)

The former Langley School pupil has since been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and complex post-traumatic stress disorder and has been in recovery since 2016.  

“At my worst, I was told by my doctor that I had a serious vitamin B deficiency – which can lead to depression and extreme fatigue – and that my liver would fail in the next few years if I didn’t stop drinking. 

“Hearing that and seeing it in black and white was a huge wake-up. 

“Anyone going through the same problems needs to address the root cause while getting the help they need.”

Norwich Evening News:

The latest figures from the ONS only include deaths directly related to alcohol abuse, such as alcoholic liver disease, poisoning and some mental disorders.  

However, adding deaths linked to alcohol, such as some cancers, would see the toll rise further. 

READ MORE: How to look after your mental health this Christmas

Norfolk County Council director of public health, Dr Louise Smith, said the council was “aware” that the number of deaths linked to alcohol was rising in Norfolk and advised visiting the Ready to Change website for advice.

Norwich Evening News: Dr Louise SmithDr Louise Smith (Image: Archant)

Where to get help and support 

  • Download the free Try Dry app to take part in Dry January or visit for more information about Alcohol Change UK. 
  • Norfolk County Council’s Ready to Change help to drink less service can be found at  
  • Matthew Project (Norfolk and Suffolk) supports children and adults with drug and alcohol support and recovery. Call 01603 981 686 or visit 
  • Change Grow Live: Norfolk Alcohol and Drug Behaviour Change Service supports people living in Norfolk. Call 01603 514 096, visit, or email 
  • Turning Point: Suffolk is a recovery network that also offers detox, residential rehab services, supported living, and aftercare support. Call 01502 531 138, email, or visit 
  • NORCAS (Norfolk and Suffolk) is a welfare rights service advocacy and benefits support for anyone who is, or has been affected by alcohol, drugs or gambling. Call 01502 513 444 or email 
  • For Alcoholics Anonymous, call 0800 9177 650 or email: 
  • For Samaritans call 116 123 or email 

How you can help

Dr Richard Piper, chief executive of Alcohol Change UK - the organisation behind Dry January – explained the importance of talking about addiction. 

He said: "If you’d like to talk to your loved one about your concerns about their drinking, it’s important to plan what you’re going to say first. Try not to criticise or blame them. 

"Pick a time when they are sober and so more likely to listen.  

"If the conversation gets heated, accept that it’s not the right time and try again later. And, if they’re open to it, encourage them to get a check-up from their GP.

Norwich Evening News: Richard Piper of Alcohol Change UKRichard Piper of Alcohol Change UK (Image: Alcohol Change UK)

"Taking a few days off alcohol every week or taking an extended break can be a great way to cut down and give your body a rest. 

“Research shows that a month without alcohol leads to lower blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes risk, as well as lower cancer-related proteins in the blood.” 

Dry January saw a record-breaking amount (more than 130,000) take part in 2022. Next year marks its 10th anniversary. 

  • If you have been impacted by an alcoholism or the death of a loved one due to alcohol, and would like to share you story to help others, email