Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Scotland's alcohol problem laid bare

NHS Health Scotland has today published the latest data on Scotland’s relationship with alcohol. 

The report, Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy: Monitoring Report 2017 brings together data on alcohol retail sales, price and affordability, self-reported alcohol consumption and alcohol-related deaths, hospital admissions and social harms.

Today’s report shows that in 2015, an average of 22 people per week died in Scotland due to an alcohol-related cause.  This is 54% higher than in England and Wales.  There are significant inequalities in alcohol-related harm, with higher levels seen in less affluent groups. In the most deprived areas of Scotland rates of alcohol-related death were six times higher than in the least deprived areas, while rates of alcohol-related hospital stays were nine times higher.

In 2016, 10.5 litres of pure alcohol were sold per adult in Scotland, equivalent to 20.2 units per adult per week.  The UK Chief Medical Officers’ low risk alcohol guidelines advise against men and women drinking more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.  This means that enough alcohol was sold last year in Scotland for every adult to exceed the weekly guideline by 44%, every week of the year. In Scotland, sales of alcohol per adult per week are 17% greater than in England and Wales.

Although it is clear from the report that Scotland continues to have a problem with alcohol, there are also a number of encouraging findings.  The increase in population consumption in Scotland between 2013 and 2015 did not continue, with sales per adult returning to a similar level as in 2013. In addition, self-reported consumption data show that the proportion of people drinking at harmful levels has fallen and the proportion of non-drinkers has risen.

Alison Douglas, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said:

"It’s clear we need further action to change Scotland’s relationship with alcohol. One million Scots are regularly drinking too much; putting themselves at increased risk of liver disease, cancer, stroke and mental health problems.

"Alcohol is so cheap and widely available that it’s easy to forget how it can damage our health. Shops are selling bottles of cheap, high-strength white cider for as little as 20p per unit of alcohol. A 50p minimum unit price will have the biggest impact on the heaviest drinkers who tend to buy these type of drinks. We need to introduce this long-delayed policy as soon as possible to improve Scotland’s health, cut crime and save lives. It is scandalous that Diageo and other Scotch Whisky Association members have blocked it."