One in five people admitted to hospital has a harmful drinking habit, and one in 10 is dependent on alcohol, research suggests.

Experts from King's College London have said the issue is worse than first thought.

They found that harmful alcohol use is 10 times higher in hospital inpatients compared with the general UK population.

Meanwhile, alcohol dependency is eight times higher.

Alcohol dependency was most common among A&E patients but was also an issue in mental health units.

The report's authors have called for universal screening in hospitals to help provide support to patients abusing alcohol and said staff should receive specialist training in dealing with patients who are dependent on alcohol.

They examined data from 124 earlier studies involving more than 1.6 million people, in order to estimate the prevalence of heavy alcohol use among inpatients.

Their findings are published in the journal Addiction.

Alcohol-related conditions are estimated to cost the NHS around £3.5bn per year, the team said.

A study published in BMJ Open in May revealed one in five people in England has been harmed in the last year by somebody else's drinking.

Another study published in May said drinkers in the UK get drunk more often than any other nationality, with respondents reporting getting drunk 51.1 times in a 12-month period - almost once a week.

Researchers from the Global Drug Survey spoke to more than 120,000 from 36 countries - including 5,400 people from across the UK.

It found that while fewer people are drinking, many who are doing so in a potentially harmful way.

Last year before Christmas, NHS England set aside £300,000 to fund safe areas where people who had had too much to drink could be checked over without having to go to A&E.

Lead researcher Dr Emmert Roberts, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College London, said: "Many doctors are aware that alcohol-related conditions are common among hospital inpatients, but our results suggest the problem is much bigger than anecdotally assumed.

"Dedicated inpatient alcohol care teams are needed to ensure this widespread problem is being addressed, particularly in the context of diminishing numbers of specialist community alcohol services in the UK."

The NHS recommends a safe level of alcohol consumption is 14 units per week.

The number of units in each drink varies depending on size and strength.

Here is a rough guide to how many units are in popular drinks:

  • A pint of beer is roughly 2.3 units
  • A bottle is about 1.6 units
  • A pint of cider is 2.6 units
  • A 175ml glass of wine, which is a medium size, is 2.3 units
  • A single shot (25ml) of alcohol is about one unit

Source: Sky News