Alcohol deaths five times higher in Scotland’s deprived areas

Rates of alcohol-specific deaths are almost five times higher in the 10 per cent most deprived areas of Scotland, according to figures from Public Health Scotland (PHS), with rates of alcohol-related hospital stays eight times higher. 

deprived area of glasgow

Population-level alcohol consumption – which is estimated from retail sales figures – was roughly the same in 2021 as the previous year, says the MESAS monitoring report 2022, which is part of the ongoing Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS) programme. COVID-19 restrictions were still affecting on-trade premises such as pubs, clubs and restaurants in 2021, meaning that 85 per cent of all alcohol sold in Scotland was through retail premises like off-licences or supermarkets. This proportion fell slightly from 90 per cent in 2020 but is still substantially higher than just over 70 per cent before the pandemic. 

More than 60 per cent of pure alcohol sold in Scotland was between 50 and 65p per unit, compared to 32 per cent before the introduction of MUP. However, alcohol on sale in the UK in 2021 was still 78 per cent more affordable than it was in 1987, says the document. A separate PHS report recently found that MUP has had little effect on the consumption patterns of people drinking at harmful levels, with some now spending less on essentials like food and utilities and more on alcohol. Almost 1,200 people died of alcohol-related causes in Scotland in 2020, an average of 23 per week. Alcohol-specific death and hospital rates are at least twice as high among men, and highest in the 55-64 age range. 

‘Today’s MESAS report shows that population-level alcohol consumption in Scotland has been maintained at a similar level to that seen in 2020, the lowest level observed in the available data,’ said public health intelligence adviser at PHS, Vicki Ponce Hardy. ‘However, it also clearly highlights that significant inequalities persist in both alcohol consumption and the harm it causes. The most recent survey data show that almost a quarter (24 per cent) of adults in Scotland still drink more than the recommended low risk weekly drinking guideline. Among those exceeding the guideline, it’s those in the lowest income group who are likely to consume the most. In the 10 per cent most deprived areas of Scotland, rates of alcohol-specific death were nearly five times higher, and alcohol-related hospital stays were nearly eight times higher, than in the 10 per cent least deprived areas. Like all harm caused by alcohol, this is preventable. Public Health Scotland will continue to monitor and evaluate Scotland’s alcohol strategy, to gauge progress and understand what works to reduce the harm alcohol causes.’

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