Scots alcohol-related deaths double during last 30 years

THE number of alcohol-related deaths in Scotland has more than doubled in the past three decades, latest figures show.

While 641 people died in 1979 from alcohol-related conditions, by 2010 the number had risen to 1,318.

The figures from the General Register Office for Scotland show that between 2009 and 2010 there was an increase of 3 per cent, or 36 deaths.

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However, whereas the number of men whose deaths were alcohol-related increased from 837 to 909 between 2009 and 2010, the number of such deaths among women dropped from 445 to 409.

The figures led to calls for more to be done to tackle the problem, including bringing in minimum pricing legislation.

Jennifer Curran, head of policy, research and communications at Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “Levels of alcohol harm in Britain are at historically high levels with alcohol being more affordable, more available and more heavily marketed than at any other time in the last 30 years.

“During that time, alcohol consumption per adult in the UK has gone up by 22 per cent and alcohol-related deaths have more than doubled.

“Raising the price of alcohol is one of the most effective ways of reducing alcohol-related harm.”

The data showed Glasgow had the most alcohol related deaths, with 215 in 2010, followed by North Lanarkshire with 119 and Edinburgh with 103. While Edinburgh saw a dramatic rise from 61 deaths to 103 over the past 30 years, Glasgow saw a smaller increase from 187 to 215.

The General Register Office for Scotland pointed out that alcohol-related deaths first started to increase sharply in the 1990s.

Information accompanying the statistics said: “The numbers of alcohol-related deaths for both sexes were relatively stable during the 1980s, but there were significant increases, particularly for men, during the 1990s and early 2000s. The largest numbers, and largest increases, were in those aged 45 to 59.”

In 2010, 569 of the 1,318 deaths were in the 45 to 59-year-old age group, followed by 449 among 60 to 74-year-olds.

Despite the rise in deaths between 2009 and 2010, there has been an overall drop since 2003, when alcohol-related deaths reached a high of 1,525.

Alcohol Concern chief executive Eric Appleby said: “Despite slightly lower figures for alcohol-related deaths in Scotland over recent years, the level of avoidable deaths due to alcohol misuse is still at a very unacceptable level. Evidence shows minimum pricing can make a real difference, so it is very timely for the Scottish Government to be taking the initiative in this area. It’s also vital services are always available for the early identification and support of problem drinkers.”

Minimum pricing legislation is due to be brought forward again by the Scottish Government this year after a failed attempt to pass it last year.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is clear that too many people are still drinking too much and damaging their health in the process. We need to take action on this.

“We believe minimum pricing would be the most effective and efficient way to tackle alcohol misuse as it would effectively target problem drinkers and help them reduce their consumption.”