Alcohol-related deaths jumped by a fifth last year and are at their highest level for 20 years, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The 19.6% rise, from 6,209 in 2019 to 7,423 in 2020, came after previous annual jumps of just 1% in England and Wales.
The rise began in March, in line with the start of the first coronavirus lockdown, and the rates for the rest of the year remained significantly higher than previous years.
According to the ONS, the final quarter of 2020, October to December, showed the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths at 1,963, and was the highest in any quarter for 20 years.
The provisional data showed deaths among men were 4.2 times higher in the most deprived areas than in the least deprived, jumping from 8.1 deaths per 100,000 to 34.1 per 100,000.
As in previous years, men died at twice the rate of women, at 17.6 deaths per 100,000 compared with 8.7.
The ONS defines alcohol deaths as those that are a direct consequence of alcohol misuse.
Clare Taylor, national director of operations at Turning Point, a social enterprise helping people with drug and alcohol issues, said: “The shocking increase in alcohol-related deaths shown in the latest data is a wake-up call. Every loss of life as a result of alcohol is a preventable tragedy.”
Matt Lambert, chief executive of the Portman Group, which is funded by alcohol firms and campaigns on issues such as social responsibility, said: “The ONS figures are tragic and highlight the devastating impact the past year has had on those drinking at the most harmful rates.
“The reasons for this are complex and likely exacerbated by pandemic restrictions which may have cut off social and professional support or deterred people from seeking help in the first instance.
“We call for increased targeted support for those struggling with their relationship with alcohol to ensure that the effects of this year are not compounded in the future.”