Alcohol-specific deaths in Scotland up nearly 20 per cent

The number of alcohol-specific deaths in Scotland rose by 17 per cent between 2019 and 2020, according to new figures from National Records of Scotland (NRS).

Scotland Man
The rate for alcohol-specific deaths is far higher in the most deprived areas with men accounting for more than two-thirds of the deaths

Deaths increased from 1,020 to 1,190, the largest number recorded since 2008, following a decline in the previous year.

As with Scotland’s drug-related deaths the rate for alcohol-specific deaths is far higher in the most deprived areas – at more than four times the rate for the least deprived. Men accounted for more than two-thirds of the deaths, with most alcohol-specific deaths among people in their 50s and 60s. 

‘NRS figures released today show a marked increase in the number of deaths due to alcohol, reversing the fall seen in 2019,’ said the agency’s director of statistical services, Pete Whitehouse. ‘Monthly analysis shows that alcohol-specific deaths were higher than average in ten months of 2020.  From August to November deaths were similar to or substantially higher than the highest numbers seen during these months over the last five years.’

‘It is devastating to hear that the number of deaths linked to alcohol harm has increased in Scotland,’ said chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore. ‘This follows a similar pattern to elsewhere in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic and demonstrates the urgent need to act on this parallel health crisis. We cannot afford to continue ignoring the damage that alcohol is inflicting on communities around the UK. Though the Scottish Government has led the way with innovative alcohol harm prevention policies – like minimum unit pricing – there is still more to do to tackle alcohol harm including ensuring access to alcohol treatment for all who need it. This must be backed up by urgent action from the UK government in the form of effective alcohol taxes and alcohol advertising restrictions on TV and online to protect children. Lives depend on it.’ 

Alcohol-specific deaths at


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