Dozens of people suffered unnecessary 'deaths of despair' in Forest of Dean over a three-year period, new analysis has found.

The team behind the study called for greater action "to prevent deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide", and said the Government must improve the inequalities found across England.

Researchers from the University of Manchester analysed coroners' court records from 2019 to 2021.

Their analysis showed 46,200 people lost their lives due to drugs, alcohol or suicide in England – the equivalent of 42 people per day.

In Forest of Dean, there were 26 deaths linked to alcohol, 22 caused by drugs and a further 26 suicides reported during the same period – which includes the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

In total, there were 74 'deaths of despair', a collective term for deaths from these causes.

It meant the area was ranked 126th out of 308 local authorities in England with a mortality rate of 34.2 deaths per 100,000 people.

The study found local authorities with higher proportions of unemployment, white British ethnicity and people living alone had higher mortality rates.

Urban and economically inactive areas also tended to have higher rates.

Lead author Christine Camacho said specific public health interventions and more wide-reaching and faster levelling up across England are needed to tackle the underlying inequalities which lead people to die from despair.

Lee Fernandes, lead therapist at alcohol treatment provider the UK Addiction Treatment Group, called the UK a "nation of binge drinkers", which led to "unhealthy drinking habits across almost all generations".

He added alcohol's legal status gives it less "stigma" than other drugs, meaning medical professionals may not take excess drinking as seriously.

A spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care said: "The Government is committed to narrowing the gap in healthy life expectancy by 2030 and to increasing healthy life expectancy by five years by 2035.

"Spending on mental health has increased by more than £4.5 billion since 2018-19.

"We’ve published a 10-year plan for tackling drug and alcohol-related harms and are investing an extra £532 million between 2022-25.

"Our ambitious plans for a smokefree generation will also save tens of thousands of lives."