Alcohol deaths in Scotland at highest level since 2008
Alcohol deaths in Scotland rose for the second year in a row last year, with 1,245 Scots losing their lives according to the National Records of Scotland.
That figure is up five per cent from 2020 and is the highest since 2008, but is below the peak levels seen in the mid-00s.
Deprivation continued to play a significant role, with people in the poorest parts of Scotland 5.6 times more likely to die from an alcohol-specific death than those in the least deprived areas.
This ratio has generally decreased in the last two decades, though is up from a low of 4.3 times in 2020.
The figures follow those published last week showing that while falling slightly, drug deaths also remain high in Scotland.
Julie Ramsay, vital events statistician at NRS, said: “Health inequalities are a feature of alcohol-specific deaths. Deaths attributed to alcohol were 5.6 times as likely in the most deprived areas of Scotland compared to the least deprived areas. This is more than the deprivation gap for all causes of death, which is 1.9.”
The Greater Glasgow area and Lanarkshire had the highest mortality rates after adjusting for age.
Two-thirds of alcohol-related deaths were men, continuing the trend seen in previous years.
Health charities have urged the government to begin treating alcohol deaths as a public health emergency.
Dr Alastair MacGilchrist of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems said minsters must take “immediate action to prevent future harms” and put in place better support for those with problems.
He said: “The Scottish Government must increase funding and resources for alcohol services, to ensure that vital support is in place for people living with an existing alcohol problem.
“It is also essential that population-wide policies such as Minimum Unit Pricing remain in place to mitigate alcohol-related harms.
“In addition to targeting the pricing of alcohol, the Scottish Government must address the wider availability and marketing of alcohol, through measures such as restricting alcohol sponsorship of sport, in order to tackle the inescapable exposure to alcohol experienced by children and other vulnerable groups, such as people in recovery.”
Alcohol Focus Scotland backed similar measures, with chief executive Alison Douglas adding: “Services were inadequate before Covid, but problems have deepened as many people turned to alcohol to cope with anxiety and stress. They need easy access to support to help aid their recovery. But we must also redouble our efforts to prevent the next generation of drinkers developing patterns of drinking that damage their health.”
The Scottish Conservatives said the government’s approach to alcohol addiction so far was “found wanting”.
Health spokesman Sandesh Gulhane said: “They wrongly saw Minimum Unit Pricing as the panacea, when in reality it’s a blunt instrument to tackle a very complex problem.
“Rather than producing a reduction in alcohol consumption, research from Public Health Scotland suggests that MUP has led to people cutting back on food so that they can afford to drink at the same level. It’s time the SNP Government got off the fence and backed the Scottish Conservatives’ Right to Recovery Bill.”
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