Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Alcohol causes 3,700 deaths in Scotland every year

New report shows truer picture of alcohol's contribution to ill health in Scotland.

Analysis has revealed the extent to which alcohol contributes to ill health and admissions to hospital in Scotland. The report by NHS Health Scotland  shows that, alongside conditions commonly associated with alcohol consumption, such as liver disease, alcohol also has an important role in injuries and the development of other conditions, such as cancer and strokes. 

NHS Health Scotland looked at the number of deaths and hospital admissions caused by alcohol consumption in 2015.  The study also looked at what it was that people were dying from or alcohol-related conditions that made them ill. 

The analysis found that alcohol contributed to 3705 deaths, and that more of these deaths were from cancer than liver disease.  Furthermore it showed that 41,161 people were admitted to hospital as a result of alcohol consumption in the same year, and that 1 in 4 of these admissions was due to unintentional injury. 

Alison Douglas, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said:

“This research shows that alcohol causes around 1 in 15 deaths in Scotland. These deaths can be from falls, road traffic accidents and alcohol poisoning, as a result of one bout of drinking. Others, such as mental illness, stroke and cancer, are likely to be the result of drinking over longer periods. It's not just 'alcoholics' who suffer - we need to stop kidding ourselves it's someone else's problem.

 "Minimum unit pricing will save lives and is a strong start to turning this around. But we all have a right to information which enables us to make healthier choices. That's why mandatory labelling is essential.

 "We also need to reduce the exposure of our children to alcohol marketing given the clear evidence that this increases the likelihood they will start to drink and that they will drink more."

 Elaine Tod, Public Health Intelligence Adviser at NHS Health Scotland, said:

 “Overall, the results tell us that alcohol consumption has a significant impact on health in Scotland – in fact, it contributed to over 100,000 years of life lost due to early death or living in poor health in 2015.  Alcohol has a wider impact on our health than many people think.

 “Reducing harmful alcohol consumption will reduce this impact, and that would benefit everyone: drinkers and non-drinkers, children and families, communities, the NHS and emergency services, employers and the economy. Preventative action is necessary if Scotland is to make long-term reductions in alcohol-related harm.”

Professor Linda Bauld,  Cancer Research UK's prevention expert, said:

"Alcohol is linked to seven types of cancer including breast and bowel cancer, and the more you drink the greater your risk of cancer. Yet we know public awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer is low. Much more needs to be done to increase public understanding.”