Decrease in alcohol related deaths (27th August 2013): Dispelling the myth that only the young are problem drinkers

Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) welcomes the latest figures released by GROS today, which indicate a 13% drop in alcohol-related death since 2011 and the lowest annual total since 1997. 

There are a range of possible explanations for these figures, including changes in licensing laws, growing acceptance amongst the public of the harm caused by excessive alcohol consumption and an increase in the delivery of Alcohol Brief Interventions by health care professionals.

However, it would appear the most likely explanation for the reduction in consumption is a combination of declining disposal income during the recession and the relative increase in the retail price of alcohol. 

A closer look at the GROS statistics tells us that some groups of society are more vulnerable that others to alcohol related harm and that the most vulnerable are middle age men.

  •  Of the 1,080 alcohol related deaths in 2012, 741 were male deaths and 339 were female.
  • Older people are more likely to die of alcohol related illness than young people. In 2012, there were 420 alcohol-related death of people aged 45-59, 394 deaths of 60-74 year olds, compared to 145 deaths of people who were 30-44.
  • The statistics tell us that 45-49 age group has had the largest number of alcohol related deaths in almost every year since 1979.

These figures, coupled with the news that alcohol consumption has declined by 3% in the past year, are reasons for hope.  However, Scotland still consumes 6% more alcohol than it did in 1994. The number of alcohol related deaths twenty years ago was 582; in 2012 that number rose to 1,080. The need to address harmful alcohol use across the Scotland is still urgent.

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