Scottish alcohol-related deaths fall nearly 40 per cent in a decade

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Alcohol-related death rates in Scotland fell by 37 per cent – from 39.5 to 24.8 per 100,000 population – in the ten years to 2012, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Death rates in England rose by 2 per cent over the same period, although at 14.7 per 100,000 population in 2012 they remain much lower than Scotland’s.

There were 8,367 alcohol-related deaths in the UK overall in 2012, 381 fewer than the previous year, with males accounting for 65 per cent of the deaths. Death rates were highest among men aged 60-64.

Meanwhile, a new modelling study from the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group has concluded that minimum pricing is an effective way to target high-risk drinkers, with ‘negligible’ effects on low-income, moderate drinkers. ‘Because harmful drinkers on low incomes purchase more alcohol at less than the minimum unit price threshold compared with other groups, they would be affected most’ by a policy of a minimum price of 45p per unit, says Effects of minimum unit pricing for alcohol on different income and socioeconomic groups: a modelling study. Much of the opposition to minimum pricing has been based on the impact it could have on moderate drinkers.

A 45p minimum price would mean an estimated 860 fewer alcohol-related deaths per year, says the study, and nearly 30,000 fewer hospital admissions. The research provided ‘further evidence’ of the effectiveness of the policy, said director of the Centre for Public Health Excellence at NICE, Professor Mike Kelly.

The Home Office has also announced 20 new ‘local alcohol action areas’ across England and Wales, with licensing authorities, health bodies and the police working together to address drink-related crime and ill health. The areas had ‘the potential to build strong evidence of what works to tackle alcohol harms in the community’, said director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, Professor Kevin Fenton.

Alcohol-related deaths in the United Kingdom, registered in 2012 at www.ons.gov.uk

Effects of minimum unit pricing for alcohol on different income and socioeconomic groups: a modelling study at www.thelancet.com