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Minimum alcohol price ‘would save 11,500 pensioners’

The deaths of 11,500 pensioners could be avoided over the next decade if minimum alcohol pricing is rolled out in England, according to new research.

The BBC’s Panorama programme commissioned the research from statisticians at Sheffield University.

They examined the likely outcomes if Scotland’s planned 50p per unit minimum price was applied in England.

It is estimated that 1.4m older people in Britain are drinking too much, leading to more hospital admissions.

Drinking alone

Scotland will become the first place in the UK to introduce minimum drink pricing. The coalition government has proposed a minimum price of 40p per unit of alcohol in England and Wales in an effort to “turn the tide” against binge drinking.

The plan is being challenged by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) both at the European Commission and through the Scottish courts.

In England last year, there were more admissions to hospital of over-65s for alcohol-related injuries and illnesses than in the 16-24-year-old category.

Researchers say roughly one-third of older drinkers are thought to first develop their drink problem in later life.

Dr Richard Aspinall, a consultant hepatologist at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, said the amount people drank on their own at home could slowly creep up.

“We think of a very visible social disorder, consequences of young people binge drinking on a Saturday night in our town centres, but what is much more hidden is quiet, below-the-radar drinking at home.”

Correction 28 September 2012: The main figure in this story has been amended from 50,000 to 11,500 after it emerged that there had been an error in the calculations carried out for Panorama by the School of Health and Related Research at the University of Sheffield.

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