DEATHS related to alcohol in Scotland are five times more likely in the most deprived groups, according to Public Health Scotland (PHS).

Statistics released today in the Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy report 2022 evaluated alcohol consumption, sales and harm, and inequalities.

It found “stark inequalities” among the poorest and most affluent adults who consume alcohol, in terms of hospital stays and death statistics.

The most recent data showed that rates of alcohol-specific deaths were five times higher in Scotland’s poorest communities, compared to the 10% least deprived areas.

And alcohol-related hospital stays were nearly eight times higher among the most deprived Scots.

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These numbers come despite efforts from the Scottish Government to curb excessive and harmful alcohol consumption by increasing the price of alcohol purchased in supermarkets and off-licences.

Minimum unit pricing (MUP) came into force on May 1, 2018, and requires all licensed premises in Scotland to set a floor price of 50p per unit of alcohol.

But a report published earlier this month by PHS, researchers found “no clear evidence” the policy had reduced consumption amongst the most harmful drinkers.

Instead, those most dependent on alcohol would find ways around the price hike – such as switching to cheaper alcohol or spending less money on food and bills.

In 2020, 1190 people died in Scotland due solely to alcohol – an average of almost 23 people per week, the report noted. Death rates increased between 2019 and 2020 – largely driven by men aged 45 and over.

Vicki Ponce Hardy, public health intelligence adviser at PHS, said the report showed population-level alcohol consumption in Scotland has been maintained at a similar level to that of 2020, the lowest level observed in the available data.

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She said: “It also clearly highlights that significant inequalities persist in both alcohol consumption and the harm it causes.

“The most recent survey data shows that almost a quarter (24%) of adults in Scotland still drink more than the recommended low-risk weekly drinking guideline.

“In the 10% 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% 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.”

In 2021, the average price of alcohol was 64p per unit, an increase from 63p in the previous year.

The report also highlighted that 24% of adults in Scotland in 2019 self-reported exceeding the low-risk, weekly, drinking guideline of 14 units, a decline from 24% in 2003.

Public Health Minister Maree Todd said: “The downward trends in alcohol consumption are encouraging, however, at a population level, we are still drinking almost 30% more than the low-risk drinking guidelines of 14 units per adult per week.

“We know there is more to do. Work on reviewing the level of MUP is under way and we will be consulting on potential restrictions on alcohol advertising later this year.

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“We are continuing to work with the UK Government on developing new UK-wide clinical guidelines for alcohol treatment.

“This guidance will look to new approaches to treatment and will apply to a broad range of settings including primary care, hospital and justice.”