‘Hazardous’ booze levels hit healthy Lothian lifestyles

WE are more likely to play sport and eat up our fruit and veg, and less likely to puff on a cigarette.

But the healthy lifestyles of residents of Edinburgh and the Lothians are being let down by an old foe – the demon drink.

It was revealed today that while we are among the best at keeping fit, the Lothians has the highest proportion of dangerous drinkers in Scotland.

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The startling statistics emerged in a new Scottish Government health survey which covers everything from the state of the population’s teeth to how much swimming and jogging is undertaken.

It found 25 per cent of adults in the Lothians could be classed as “hazardous or harmful” drinkers, based on their own estimate of their weekly alcohol consumption – higher than any other area of the country.

In total, 30 per cent of men and 22 per cent of women admitted drinking more than the official guidelines.

Jim Sherval, specialist in public health at NHS Lothian, admitted the statistics were concerning, even though Lothian was only slightly higher than the Scottish average in the drinking stakes.

He said: “These figures do show that we all need to drink less. This could be attributed to the wide availability of alcohol, as we know that 70 per cent of alcohol is bought through off-sales premises.

“Many people have come to think of drinking alcohol as a part of everyday life, which can mask the real harm caused by drinking too much.”

Indeed, while the figures are alarming, hazardous drinking may be classed as ten pints of beer or glasses of wine a week for a man or seven for a woman. Men who drink more than 50 units – roughly 25 pints – and women who consume more than 35 units are considered to be drinking at “harmful” levels.

It is certainly not all bad news for Lothian health chiefs in the Scottish Health Survey 2011, though.

According to the findings, people in Lothian are more likely to play sport than those elsewhere in Scotland.

Eighteen per cent of Lothian adults said they had worked out in a gym, been on an exercise bike or done weight training in the past four weeks, while the same is true for only 14 per cent across the country. Sixteen per cent in the Lothians had been swimming, 14 per cent running or jogging and 12 per cent cycling, compared with figures of 13, 11 and nine per cent respectively across Scotland.

Lothian adults were also less likely to smoke, with 24 per cent admitting they were current smokers, while 21 per cent said they were ex-smokers and 55 per cent said they had never been a regular smoker.

Twenty-six per cent of Lothian people said they had their recommended five portions of fruit and veg a day, compared with just 22 per cent for the country as a whole.

When it comes to dental health, Lothian also has more reason to smile as people here are much more likely still to have their own teeth.

Public Health Minister Michael Matheson welcomed evidence in the survey of a fall in the number of smokers and, despite the Lothian figures, a drop in alcohol consumption.

He said: “We want to see Scotland become a healthier, fitter and more active nation.

“We are seeing improvement in many areas, however it’s important that work continues to ensure that these trends continue in the right direction.”


This is the seventh report in the Scottish Health Survey series which began in 1995.

The survey is based on interviews with selected households. A total of 7544 adults and 1987 children participated in the 2011 survey.

They were asked questions about their general health and long-term conditions, their mental health and wellbeing, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, eating habits, smoking and drinking, physical activity, dental health and other background details.

The interviewers also measured participants’ height and weight, and asked for consent to link participants’ answers to their NHS health records.

A nurse asked adults additional questions about medications, food poisoning, depression, anxiety and self-harm. Nurses also measured waist and hip, blood pressure and lung function, and collected fluid samples.