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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
22 April 2024
Scotland continues to have the highest rate of alcohol deaths in the UK

There were 1,276 alcohol-related deaths in 2022 | Alamy

Scotland continues to have the highest rate of alcohol deaths in the UK

Scotland continues to have the highest rate of alcohol deaths in the UK, according to new figures published by the Office for National Statistics.  

In 2022, there were 1,276 alcohol-related deaths - 22.6 people per 100,000 - and the total has risen from 1,245 in 2021. 

Across the UK there were 10,048 deaths from alcohol-specific causes in the UK, a rate of 16.6 per 100,000 people. This represents a record high of deaths in the UK.  

The rate of alcohol deaths in England has risen by 34.3 per cent since 2019, compared to 22.2 per cent in Scotland. 

While the increase in deaths since the pandemic has been steeper south of the border, when comparing the latest figures to those released in 2019 there has been a staggering increase of 25 per cent in Scotland.  

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said “despite the lifesaving impact of minimum unit pricing (MUP)” the figures show that Scotland “remains in the grip of an alcohol emergency”. 

Douglas said: “Changes to drinking patterns during the Covid-19 pandemic have sadly become embedded and represent a ticking time bomb of alcohol-related illness and deaths for our already over-stretched NHS. 

“Every life lost due to alcohol is a preventable tragedy for individuals, families, friends and communities. It is particularly concerning to note the increase in death rates for women.  

“Despite the Scottish Government’s acknowledgement that this is a public health emergency, we are still not seeing an adequate emergency response. Alcohol deaths continue to rise, yet people accessing alcohol treatment in Scotland have declined by 40 per cent over the last 10 years. This has to change. 

“We must improve treatment and recovery support. But we also have to prevent the health and social harms caused by alcohol in the first place. We know what works: making alcohol less affordable, restricting how it is marketed, and reducing how widely available it is. We also know that Big Alcohol is the number one roadblock to implementing these cost-effective measures because they rely on heavy drinking for much of their profits. 

“It’s time we got on and implemented these essential public health policies and put people’s right to good health above the interests of big business.” 

Minister for Drugs and Alcohol Policy Christina McKelvie said: “Research commended by internationally-renowned public health experts estimated that our world-leading Minimum Unit Pricing policy has saved hundreds of lives, likely averted hundreds of alcohol-attributable hospital admissions and contributed to reducing health inequalities. I’m pleased that Parliament agreed last week to continue MUP legislation and to raise the level it is set at to 65p - aiming to increase its public health effects.

“Despite this progress, deaths caused specifically by alcohol rose last year – and my sympathy goes out to all those who have lost a loved one. However, as a letter to The Lancet by public health experts makes clear, it is likely that without MUP there would have been an even greater number of alcohol-specific deaths.

“The Scottish Government is determined to do all it can to reduce alcohol-related harm. Alongside MUP, we will continue to invest in treatment and a wide range of other measures, including funding for Alcohol and Drug Partnerships which rose to a record £112 million in 2023-24.”

“Following the consultation that concluded last year, the Scottish Government is considering targeted restrictions on alcohol marketing.”

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