Reducing harm caused by alcohol


18.6% increase in deaths from alcohol in 2020

The Office for National Statistics released "Alcohol-specific deaths in the UK: registered in 2020" on 7 December 2021. The key points are

  • In 2020, there were 8,974 deaths (14.0 per 100,000 people) from alcohol-specific causes registered in the UK, an 18.6% increase compared with 2019 (7,565 deaths; 11.8 per 100,000 people) and the highest year-on-year increase since the data time series began in 2001.
  • Scotland had the highest rates of alcohol-specific deaths in 2020 – a rate of 21.5 per 100,000 people
  • Ireland recorded 19.6 deaths per 100,000 people, Wales 13.9 per 100,000 and England 13 per 100,000.
  • In 2020, Scotland and England were the only UK constituent countries to show statistically significant higher rates when comparing with 2019. In comparison, rates in both Wales and Northern Ireland were not statistically significantly different for the same period.
  • Between 2012 and 2019, rates of alcohol-specific deaths in the UK have remained stable, but a statistically significant increase was seen in 2020.


In response to the statistics, Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said, “Once again Scotland has experienced more deaths from alcohol than the rest of the UK. Following an encouraging reduction in 2019, the sudden increase in 2020 is devastating to see and a tragedy for everyone affected. It is a stark reminder that we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball where alcohol harm is concerned.

“Scotland has made good progress in addressing the problems we have with alcohol by introducing policies like minimum unit pricing which is showing promising results. Yet the impact of the pandemic threatens to undermine this progress. The Scottish Government must raise the minimum unit price of alcohol to 65p per unit as soon as possible to save more lives.”