There were 1,245 deaths from ‘conditions caused by alcohol’ in Scotland last year, according to the latest National Records of Scotland (NRS) statistics – a 5 per cent increase on 2020 and the highest number since 2008. The figures come a week after Scotland recorded a drug death total for 2021 that was just nine down on the previous year’s record figure (www.drinkanddrugsnews.com/scotland-sees-slight-fall-in-drug-related-deaths).
As with the drug death figures, two thirds of the alcohol-specific deaths were among men, with the average age 59 for males and 58 for females. The death rate was more than five times higher in the country’s most deprived areas, compared to the least deprived.
Although Scotland’s alcohol-related death rate remains higher than in other UK countries, the gap has narrowed over the last two decades. In 2001, Scotland’s death rate was 2.9 times higher than England’s, compared to 1.7 times in 2020.
‘The high number of deaths from alcohol in 2021 is devastating and comes on top of a substantial increase in 2020,’ said Alcohol Focus Scotland chief executive Alison Douglas. ‘Each of these 1,245 deaths is a life cut tragically short, and leaves behind family members and friends suffering their loss. These impacts are experienced unequally with many more people dying in our poorest communities. We seem to almost accept this toll as inevitable, but we should not; each death can be prevented.’
Support services were ‘inadequate’ even before COVID, she said, with the problem worsening as many heavy drinkers increased their consumption. As well as increased investment in treatment, more action was needed on pricing – including an increase in the minimum unit price to ‘at least’ 65p – along with tougher marketing restrictions, she stated.
‘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.’
Alcohol-specific deaths, 2021 at www.nrscotland.gov.uk. Read the reports and data here