Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Quarter of Scots drink above guidelines

Key alcohol findings from the Scottish Health Survey 2016

  • The proportion of adults drinking above the recommended maximum of 14 units per week fell from 34% in 2003 to 25% in 2013 and has stayed at a similar level since (25% in 2014 and 26% in 2015 and 2016).
  • Male drinkers were twice as likely to drink above the recommended maximum of 14 units a week than female drinkers.
  • The percentage of adults reporting that they do not drink alcohol increased significantly from 11% in 2003 to 16% in 2013, and has stayed at that level since.
  • More adults reported not drinking alcohol in the most deprived areas (26%) than the least deprived areas (11%).
  • Female drinkers in the least deprived areas had higher weekly consumption levels than female drinkers in other areas.
  • 13% of adults drank on more than 5 days in the last week.
  • Drinkers aged 75 and over consumed less alcohol at one time, but drank with greater frequency than younger drinkers who tended to consume greater volumes of alcohol in fewer drinking sessions.

Alison Douglas, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said:

"A quarter of Scots are putting themselves at risk of liver disease, cancer, stroke and mental health problems by drinking above the low-risk guidelines of 14 units per week.

"Men are twice as likely as women to drink above the guidelines, and there are twice as many male alcohol-related deaths. However, the rise in women’s drinking over time is concerning and it’s women in professional jobs living in more affluent areas who tend to drink more. This trend has been driven by the alcohol industry creating products and advertising campaigns directly targeting women. Alcohol is so cheap and easily available it has become an everyday grocery item.

"The upcoming Scottish Government alcohol strategy must focus on reducing the widespread availability and marketing of alcohol to make it easier for people to drink less."