Reducing harm caused by alcohol


ONS figures show highest alcohol deaths on record

Today [Thursday 8 December 2022] the ONS published figures showing the rates of alcohol-specific deaths in the UK.

Overall, in 2021 there were 9,641 deaths (14.8 per 100,000 people) from alcohol-specific causes registered in the UK, the highest number on record.

Scotland has the highest rate of deaths from alcohol in the UK, but the greatest increases in death rates since 2019 have been seen in England.

In response to the figures, Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said, “While England has seen the largest percentage increase in rates of alcohol-specific deaths over the last two years, Scotland still has overall higher rates of deaths. This is not good enough. Each death is a life ended too soon, and leaves behind family members and friends suffering their loss. We appear to accept this toll as inevitable, but we should not; each death can be prevented. The Scottish Government has recognised alcohol harm as a public health emergency alongside drugs, but we have not yet seen an emergency response on the same scale; they must act now.

“Action must include investment in support for those with alcohol problems. Services were inadequate before the pandemic, but problems have deepened as many people turned to alcohol to cope with anxiety and stress. They need easy access to support to help aid their recovery.

“At a population level, minimum unit pricing has reduced consumption in Scotland, but the Scottish Government must optimise its impact to save and improve more lives. On its own however, minimum unit pricing isn’t going to change our relationship alcohol. We also need to address how heavily alcohol is marketed and restrict how available it is in our communities. Only a comprehensive and sustained approach to preventing and reducing alcohol consumption and harm is likely to turn around these worrying trends.”

In 2021, there were 9,641 deaths across the UK from alcohol-specific causes, a rise of 7.4% on the previous year, and 27.4% higher than in 2019.

Scotland and Northern Ireland had the highest alcohol-specific death rates in 2021, with 22.4 and 19.3 deaths per 100,000 persons, respectively.

England and Wales continue to have lower rates of alcohol-specific deaths, with 13.9 and 15.0 deaths per 100,000 persons.

When compared with the 2019, the last pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic year, the largest increases in rates were seen in England (increases 27.5%).