Liver disease could become one of the biggest killers in the UK as a result of the country's binge drinking culture, according to a new study.
The survey, commissioned by the London Clinic in Harley Street, shows that half of Britain's young adults first got drunk before the age of 15.
It found that 48 per cent of those in the 18 to 24 age group were between the ages of 13 and 15 when they first got drunk, while 6 per cent were aged under 12.
The survey, of 1,038 people, also revealed that 14 per cent of men and 11 per cent of women drink every day and 6 per cent of men drink more than a week's recommended alcohol intake in one night.
Deaths from cirrhosis of the liver caused by alcohol abuse have doubled in the past 10 years and the condition in young people has increased eight-fold.
Cirrhosis is killing more women than cervical cancer and more men than Parkinson's disease.
"Particularly worrying is the early age at which young people are starting to drink," the Independent quoted Professor Roger Williams, director of the London Clinic Liver Centre, as saying.
His colleague, Professor Max Malago, a liver surgeon, added: "If current trends continue, Britain faces an epidemic of liver disease that threatens to eclipse that of diseases like breast cancer. Binge-drinking is a key culprit but it's not the only one. Diet is also partly to blame."
The survey also highlighted what it describes is "an ignorance" of liver disease among drinkers.
It says 71 per cent of men and 78 per cent of women think that regular drinking only presents a low risk of liver disease.