Alcohol-related deaths more than 50 per cent higher in Scotland

An average of 22 people per week died of an alcohol-related cause in Scotland in 2015, according to an NHS Health Scotland report, a figure that’s 54 per cent higher than in England and Wales. Weekly alcohol sales per adult were also 17 per cent higher.

The following year saw 10.5 litres of pure alcohol sold per adult in Scotland, enough to exceed the chief medical officer’s recommended 14 units by 44 per cent every week of the year, says Monitoring and evaluating Scotland’s alcohol strategy, which draws together data on sales, price and consumption as well as alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions. Alcohol-related death rates were up to six times higher in the country’s most deprived areas, with alcohol-related hospital stays up to nine times higher. Rates of alcohol-related death and hospital admissions were more than twice as high among men, and highest of all in the 55-64 age range.

More than half of all off-trade alcohol was sold for less than 50p per unit in 2015, the report continues, although overall alcohol consumption rates have fallen back to 2013 levels following two years of increases, and the proportion of non-drinkers is rising. The number of children who report drinking in the previous week is also declining.

‘It is worrying that as a nation we buy enough alcohol for every person in Scotland to exceed the weekly drinking guideline substantially,’ said the report’s lead author, Lucie Giles. This has harmful consequences for individuals, their family and friends as well as wider society and the economy. The harm that alcohol causes to our health is not distributed equally; the harmful effects are felt most by those living in the most disadvantaged areas in Scotland.’

‘It’s clear we need further action to change Scotland’s relationship with alcohol,’ added Alcohol Focus Scotland chief executive Alison Douglas. ‘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.’

Report at www.healthscotland.scot

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