This page provides a summary of some of the key facts and figures around Scotland’s relationship with alcohol and the impact of alcohol on our health, wellbeing and on wider society.

How much are we drinking in Scotland?

Most people in Scotland drink alcohol, with only 19% saying that they don’t drink at all. 22% of Scots are risking their health by regularly drinking more than 14 units per week (often referred to as harmful or hazardous drinking).

Graphic detailing alcohol consumption in Scotland

Stats from Scottish Health Survey 2022

How does alcohol affect our health?

Alcohol causes over 200 conditions and diseases. Some of these conditions can only be caused by alcohol (e.g. alcohol poisoning, alcohol-related liver disease, alcohol dependence syndrome) but for many other conditions, alcohol is one of many contributing causes (e.g. cancer, cardiovascular disease, accidents).

Stat from Rehm et al (2010)

How many people die because of alcohol in Scotland?

It is estimated that more than 10 people die each week due to alcohol in Scotland (over 2,800 a year).

Statistics from Public Health Scotland Alcohol Consumption and Harm Dashboard

Alcohol-specific deaths

In Scotland, annual statistics are published by National Records of Scotland on the number of people who have died from conditions caused that can only ever be caused by alcohol, such as alcohol-related liver disease, alcohol poisoning and alcohol dependence syndrome. In 2022, there were 1,276 alcohol-specific deaths.

Males have generally tended to make up around two thirds of alcohol specific deaths in Scotland in recent years, but female deaths have been increasing – up by 31 in 2022.

Deaths are highest in older men in the 45-64 and 65-74 age groups and have been the highest since the data was first available.

Alcohol deaths and harm are also much higher in the most deprived areas of Scotland.

Graphic detailing alcohol-specific deaths

Stats from National Records of Scotland 2023

Alcohol-related deaths

The number of people who die from other conditions caused by alcohol, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, is obtained through estimates calculated by Public Health Scotland. Taken together with alcohol-specific deaths, these are often referred to as ‘alcohol-related deaths’, or ‘alcohol-attributable deaths’. This gives a more accurate picture of how many deaths are caused by alcohol, with the total number of deaths from alcohol in Scotland around double the number of alcohol-specific deaths.

The most recent data available is for 2020. There were an estimated 2,280 alcohol-related deaths in Scotland in 2020: 1,185 alcohol-specific deaths and 1,635 deaths from other conditions caused by alcohol.

A significant proportion of these deaths are from alcohol-related cancers; for example, alcohol is estimated to cause 1 in 8 deaths from breast cancer for females aged 35-64 in Scotland and nearly 1 in 2 deaths from mouth and throat cancer for males aged 35-64.

Many deaths from cardiovascular disease are also caused by alcohol, e.g. 1 in 5 deaths for males aged 35-64 from high blood pressure and more than 1 in 6 deaths for females aged 35-64 from strokes from bleeding in the brain.

Stats from Public Health Scotland Alcohol Consumption and Harm Dashboard

How many people are hospitalised due to alcohol in Scotland?

It is estimated that more than 53,000 people are hospitalised due to alcohol in Scotland every year.

The most recent data is for 2020, when there were an estimated 53,748 hospitalisations due to alcohol: 35,640 admissions for conditions that are only ever caused by alcohol, such as alcohol-related liver disease and alcohol poisoning, and a further 18,108 hospital admissions for other conditions and injuries, such as cancers, cardiovascular disease, and accidents. This includes around 6,700 hospital admissions for alcohol-related cancers.

Alcohol is estimated to cause a significant proportion of hospital admissions for conditions and injuries for which alcohol is one of many causes, including:

  • Almost a third of hospital admissions for motor vehicle collisions for males aged 15 to 34.
  • 1 in 5 admissions for fires, drownings and falls for males aged 15 to 34.
  • Almost half (47.7%) of admissions for mouth and throat cancer for males aged 35-64.

Statistics from Public Health Scotland Alcohol Consumption and Harm Dashboard

Annually reported hospital admission statistics

Public Health Scotland also reports annual statistics on hospital admissions for conditions that are entirely due to alcohol.

The latest stats are for 2022/23, when someone was hospitalised every 15 mins due to alcohol, with a total of 31,206 alcohol-related hospital admissions.

20,634 Scottish residents had at least one admission to hospital with an alcohol-related condition.

Men are currently 2.4 times more likely than women to be admitted to general hospitals for alcohol-related conditions (749 compared to 315 stays per 100,000 population).

People living in the most deprived areas were much more likely to be admitted to hospital compared with the least deprived (849 compared to 127 per 100,000 population).

Graphic detailing hospital admissions related to alcohol

Stats from Alcohol-related Hospital Statistics Scotland 2022/23

Alcohol and Inequalities

  • Alcohol-specific death rates in the most deprived areas were 4.3 times more than those in the least deprived areas. (from National Records of Scotland).
  • Alcohol-related hospital stays are 7 times higher in Scotland’s poorest communities than the most affluent (from Alcohol-related Hospital Statistics Scotland 2022/23).
  • In 2022, the highest proportion of adult non-drinkers was in the most deprived areas (25%) and the lowest was in the least deprived areas (12%) (From Scottish Health Survey 2022).
  • 19% of people living in our most deprived areas drink above the weekly low-risk guidelines of 14 units, compared to 28% in the most affluent areas (From Scottish Health Survey 2022)
  • However, of those drinking above the weekly low-risk guidelines, people in the most deprived areas drink more units per week (From Scottish Health Survey 2022). 

More on illness and injury

Alcohol is responsible for a substantial number of GP consultations and a high proportion of physical trauma (e.g. caused by accidents, injuries, assaults) patients.

Graphic detailing alcohol's involvement with trauma in hospitals

GP stats from ScotPHO

Trauma stats from Audit of trauma management in Scotland 2021

Alcohol and crime

  • 37% of violent crime is alcohol-related (from Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2021/22).
  • The drug and alcohol status of 16 of 73 persons accused in homicide cases was known in 2022-23. 11 (69%) were reported to be under the influence of alcohol, and 4 (25%) were reported to have been under the influence of both alcohol and drugs at the time (Homicides in Scotland 2022/23)
  • Four in ten (40%) of prisoners report being drunk at the time of their offence (from Prisoner Survey 2019)
  • Over half (56%) of young offenders report being drunk at the time of their offence (from Young People in Custody 2017)

Economic cost of alcohol harm

The latest estimate is that alcohol use costs Scotland £5-10 billion each year (Social Market Foundation).

AFS created local alcohol cost profiles from previous estimates, showing costs at local authority level of millions of pounds every year.

 

 

Graphic detailing the cost of alcohol use to Scotland each year

Stats from Getting in the spirit? Alcohol and the Scottish economy

Alcohol Focus Scotland has developed local profiles demonstrating the high level of alcohol harm within Scotland’s 32 local authorities.

The local area profiles highlight the number of people drinking over the recommended low-risk guidelines, the number of hospital admissions and deaths as a result of alcohol, and the cost of alcohol harm to the public purse, among other key facts.

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

Public Health Scotland’s Alcohol Consumption and Harms Dashboard provides data and evidence on alcohol-related health and social harms and inequalities in Scotland.

The figures

1276
deaths in 2022 due to conditions caused solely by alcohol
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