What we drink

Over the past 40 years, alcohol consumption in the UK has doubled, rising from 5.7 litres of pure alcohol per person (16+) in 1960 to 11.5 litres in 2007. This rise in consumption has been accompanied by an increase in alcohol-related morbidity, mortality and social harm. 

In Scotland, nine out of ten adults drink alcohol. For three quarters of Scots, the most common drinking location is the home and this proportion increases by age. 

Information on Scottish adult drinking behaviour can be found in the Scottish Health Survey. According to the last survey published in 2008, 30% of men and 20% of women reported drinking more than the recommended weekly limits. Forty-four per cent of men and 36% of women who reported drinking in the past week drank more than the recommended daily limits on their heaviest drinking day. Of these, 27% of men and 18% of women reported drinking double (or more) than the recommended daily limits on their heaviest drinking day. 

Actual alcohol consumption in Scotland is likely to be significantly highly than the Scottish Health Survey suggests as people are known to under-report the amount of alcohol they drink in surveys. The extent of survey underestimation is considered in a report by the Scottish Public Health Observatory (2008), How much are people in Scotland really drinking?

Given the deficiencies of the survey data, it seems certain that the number of people drinking at levels at increased risk to their health represent a significant proportion of the Scottish population.