Reducing harm caused by alcohol

Alcohol facts and figures

Alcohol consumption in Scotland - from Scottish Health Survey 2021

  • Around 1 in 4 people (23%) drink at hazardous or harmful levels (defined as drinking more than 14 units per week).
  • Drinking more than 14 units a week was reported by 31% of men and 16% of women.
  • Men drink an average of 14.8 units of alcohol a week, and women drink an average of 8.0 units a week.
  • 16% of people say they are non-drinkers.
  • Among all children in 2017/2019 combined 17% were living with at least one parent who exhibited hazardous, harmful drinking behaviour or had a possible alcohol dependence (AUDIT score of 8 or more)

Alcohol-related deaths in Scotland - from National Records of Scotland 2023

  • There were 1,276 alcohol-specific deaths in 2022 (where alcohol was the underlying cause of death) - an increase of 2% (31 deaths) on 2021, and an increase of 25% (256 deaths) on 2019.
  • In 2022, 836 of the alcohol-specific deaths were men, 440 were women.
  • Males have generally tended to make up around two thirds of alcohol specific deaths in Scotland in recent years.
  • Female deaths increased by 31 to 440, with the number of alcohol-specific male deaths unchanged at 836.
  • Alcohol-specific death rates in the most deprived areas were 4.3 times more than those in the least deprived areas.
  • The mortality rates for the age 45-64 and age 65-74 age groups are the highest, and have been the highest since the data was first available.

Alcohol-related hospital stays in Scotland - from Alcohol-related Hospital Statistics Scotland 2021/22

  • There were 35,187 alcohol-related hospital admissions (stays) in Scotland in 2021/22.
  • 21,840 Scottish residents had at least one admission to hospital with an alcohol-related condition.
  • Men were 2.3 times more likely than women to be admitted to general hospitals for alcohol-related conditions (856 compared to 365 per 100,000 population).
  • Rates were 6 times higher for people living in the most deprived areas compared with the least deprived (991 compared to 153 per 100,000 population).

Alcohol and inequalities

Contribution of alcohol to ill health in Scotland - from NHS Report: Burden of Disease Attributable to Alcohol Consumption

  • Alcohol was a factor in 3,705 deaths in Scotland in 2015.
  • One in four alcohol deaths (1,048) was from cancer, 544 deaths were from heart conditions and strokes, and 357 deaths were from unintentional injuries eg falls.
  • This means that 6.5% or around 1 in 15 of the deaths for the whole of Scotland in 2015 (57,327), were caused by alcohol.
  • At least 41,161 patients were admitted to hospital due to alcohol in 2015 including 11,068 due to unintentional injuries, 8,509 due to mental ill health and behavioural disorders and 4,291 due to liver disease and pancreatitis.

Note: These statistics report on the extent to which alcohol contributes to ill health and admissions to hospital in Scotland. The statistics above on alcohol deaths and hospital admissions use a narrower definition, reporting mostly on conditions that are only caused by alcohol. 

Attitudes to alcohol in Scotland - from Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2013

  • 84% of Scots thought alcohol causes either a 'great deal' or 'quite a lot of harm in Scotland'.
  • Most people disapprove of excessive drinking - only 19% thought that 'getting drunk is a perfectly acceptable thing to do on weekends'.
  • Over four in ten (44%) non-drinkers perceived that others think they are odd for not drinking.
  • Around half of Scots did not know the number of units in a pint of beer, measure of spirits or a glass of wine.

Alcohol-related GP consultations in Scotland - from ScotPHO

  • There were an estimated 94,630 alcohol-related primary care consultations by 48,420 patients in 2012/13.
  • Consultation rates were highest for those aged 65 and over.

Alcohol-related trauma in Scotland - from STAG Trauma Annual Report 2015

  • Alcohol is associated with 33% of major trauma patients and 25% of all trauma patients.
  • Involvement of alcohol is nearly twice as common in male trauma patients.

Alcohol-related crime in Scotland 

Cost of alcohol harm - from The Societal Cost of Alcohol Misuse in Scotland for 2007

  • Alcohol harm costs Scotland £3.6 billion a year in health, social care, crime, productive capacity and wider costs.
  • Alcohol costs the health service in Scotland £267 million a year.
  • The cost of alcohol-related crime is £727 million a year.
  • Alcohol costs every local authority area in Scotland millions of pounds a year - see our local alcohol cost profiles in the Resources section.

ScotPHO provides comprehensive statistics, research and publications on alcohol including local alcohol profiles for Health Board and Alcohol & Drug Partnership areas.