The number of alcohol-specific deaths has increased by 17% to 1,190 in 2020, up from 1,020 in 2019, according to statistics on deaths by various causes published today by National Records of Scotland.  

These figures show a return to the recent upward trend in the number of alcohol-specific deaths in Scotland following a decline in the previous year. This is the largest number of deaths due to alcohol recorded since 2008.

This NRS report presents mortality rates for deaths from causes known to be exclusively caused by alcohol consumption. Alcoholic liver disease and mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol have been the leading causes of alcohol death since 2000.

Most alcohol-specific deaths were of people in their 50s and 60s, with the average age being 59.9 for men and 57.4 for women. Men are more than twice as likely as women to die from alcohol

Deaths in the most deprived areas were four times more than those in the least deprived areas.

The latest statistics for Scotland show:

·       The five-year average alcohol-specific death rate for Scotland was 20.5 deaths per 100,000 population.

·       Four health boards had death rates higher than the average: Greater Glasgow and Clyde; Lanarkshire; Western Isles and Highland.

·       The council areas with the worst rates were Inverclyde (31.6), Glasgow City (31.3) and North Lanarkshire (29.8).

·       The local authorities with the lowest death rates were Shetland (10.0), Aberdeenshire (10.3) and Scottish Borders (11.1).

·       The death rate in the most deprived areas of Scotland was 41 per 100,000 compared 10 in the least deprived 20%.

·       The increase has been driven by male deaths as there was very little change in the number for females.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said, “Last year we saw a positive reduction in the number of deaths caused by alcohol. This sudden increase of 17% is devastating to see and a tragedy for everyone affected. It is a stark reminder that we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball where alcohol harm is concerned."

“Scotland has made good progress in addressing the problems we have with alcohol by introducing policies like minimum unit pricing which is showing promising results. Yet the impact of the pandemic threatens to undermine this progress. Many people, particularly heavier drinkers, have reported that they have increased their drinking during the last 18 months. The effects are felt most by those living in our poorest communities, who are eight times more likely to die due to alcohol. "

“If we are to prevent more people losing their lives to alcohol and to reduce health inequalities we need to redouble our efforts by reducing the availability of alcohol, restricting its marketing and by uprating minimum unit price. Importantly, we also need to make sure that support is available to those who need it now. We have recently seen a significant investment in drug treatment in response to the increasing numbers of people who are tragically losing their lives to drugs. To reduce the long-term impact of the pandemic this needs to be matched with investment in recovery-oriented alcohol services."