ATHEISTS and agnostics in Scotland are the most likely to drink excessively, a survey has revealed.
Over one in four people who said they did not belong to any religious group drank harmful levels of alcohol every week.
And 41 per cent of them revealed they regularly exceeded recommended daily drink guidelines, compared to a national average of 39 per cent.
Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists are the least likely religious groups to drink at hazardous or harmful levels, according to the Scottish Government’s Equality Groups Health Survey.
Homosexuals were also significantly more likely to drink to hazardous or harmful levels than the national average.
Dr Gerry McCartney, head of the Public Health Observatory at NHS Health Scotland, said: “These figures are likely to reflect different social and cultural factors among these groups, as well as the prevalence of age groups in them.
“For instance, members of some religious groups may have stronger social networks and be able to get support if and when they need it, or it may not be in their culture to drink or drink too much.”
The report also revealed various differences in the social and eating habits of various religions and groups of people.
It found Buddhists and Hindus had the lowest levels of obesity, while Church of Scotland members had significantly higher levels than the national average.
White British people were least likely to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, the lowest level of all ethnic groups living in Scotland.
Dr McCartney said: “Many people in the other ethnic groups are likely to be well- educated and highly motivated to do well in their host country and this could reflect their desire to eat more healthily. It could also be cultural, too.”
Other statistics highlighted how Chinese people were the least likely to suffer heart disease, while diabetes was common among Pakistani and Indian ethnic groups.
Respondents who identified themselves as lesbian or gay were significantly less likely to have diabetes than the national average.
Men had a more positive view of their general health and had better mental wellbeing than women in almost every group.
Men were also more likely to participate in more sporting activities and to meet the recommended weekly physical activity levels than women.
Muslims did the lowest amount of physical activity, while on the other hand those with no religious faith took part in the most sport and other activities to keep fit.
Prevalence of smoking was highest among people aged between 25 and 34, but rates decreased with age. However older smokers, those between the ages of 45 and 54, typically smoked the most cigarettes per day.
The survey, published yesterday, revealed disabled people of both sexes were more likely to smoke.
People in deprived areas are two and a half times more likely to have a heart attack and more likely to have a serious alcohol-related illness.
The data was obtained from groups and individuals across Scotland between 2008 and 2011.
A Scottish Government spokesman said the report represented “an important step forward” in the availability of data on equality groups in Scotland and would inform policy to help identify local needs and allocate resources appropriately depending on the gender, age and religion of people in the community.