Link between ethnic groups and alcohol deaths revealed

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NATIVE Scots are more than twice as likely to die of alcohol-related causes compared with residents who were born south of the Border and then move north, according to a new study published yesterday.

The Edinburgh University study into drink-related deaths in Scotland showed there were clear "ethnic divides".

Scots-born males, it said, were 64 per cent more likely to die as a result of alcohol compared with men who were born in England and Wales but now lived in Scotland.

Both men and women born in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland but living in Scotland were also more than twice as likely to die from alcohol-related conditions as the Welsh or English.

The Edinburgh researchers, working with Oxford University and the NHS Information Services Division, analysed causes of death that were directly related to alcohol - including alcoholic liver disease, accidents and suicide - across different ethnic groups in Scotland between 2000 and 2005.

There was no clear difference in alcohol-related deaths between men and women born in Scotland compared to those from Ireland.

Raj Bhopal, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said the results could be used to target alcohol prevention strategies to reverse the trend in these "preventable" deaths.

He said: "Alcohol is the main cause of liver disease in the UK - it is estimated to account for around two-thirds of liver disease deaths. If we can better understand which ethnic groups have greater susceptibility then we can target alcohol prevention strategies where they are most needed.

"In addition, this study is a useful reminder that alcohol- related deaths are preventable, and that action is required to address this in Scotland."

The new findings follow another Edinburgh University study, published last year in the Journal of Public Health, which found that Scots men and women living in England were also twice as likely to die a drink-related death than people born south of the Border.

According to Scottish Government statistics, one Scot is killed by alcohol every three hours, and alcohol-related illnesses may be killing one in 20 Scots.

Reacting to the research, Dr Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: "This is yet again more research that highlights the enormous problem Scotland has with alcohol. Politicians need to cease their bickering and start implementing decisive action which will help save Scottish lives each year."

Dr Bruce Ritson, chairman of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, said that it was proof of the need for minimum pricing. "This research underlines why Scotland needs to act decisively to tackle problem drinking," he said."Whilst we may not yet fully understand why Scots are more likely to die from alcohol-related conditions, we do know what will work to save lives."

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: "This research reinforces the need to address alcohol misuse in Scotland and its underlying causes as a matter of urgency.

"That's why we have brought forward a package of measures - including minimum pricing - aimed at changing Scotland's relationship with alcohol."

This had been backed up by a "record" investment of almost 100 million in prevention and treatment services, she added.

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