Alcohol leads to 100,000 years of life lost to poor health a year

Alcohol contributed to 100,000 years of life lost in 2015, according to a report that lays bare the extent to which excessive drinking is responsible for ill health and hospital admissions in Scotland.
Alcohol contributed to 100,000 years of life lost in 2015. Picture: Jacky GhosseinAlcohol contributed to 100,000 years of life lost in 2015. Picture: Jacky Ghossein
Alcohol contributed to 100,000 years of life lost in 2015. Picture: Jacky Ghossein

Findings from NHS Health Scotland showed that alcohol was a factor in over 3,700 deaths in a single year and that drink was involved in more than 1,000 deaths from cancer and hundreds from conditions like liver disease, as well as accidental injuries.

In addition, 41,161 people were admitted to hospital as a result of alcohol consumption in 2015 and one in four of these admissions was due to unintentional injury.

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Experts said the findings which are published in a full report out today, show that drink has a wider impact on health than many people think and can be attributed to a wide range of illnesses not just alcohol specific conditions.

Elaine Tod, Public Health Intelligence Adviser at NHS Health Scotland, said: “Overall, the results tell us that alcohol consumption has a significant impact on health in Scotland – in fact, it contributed to over 100,000 years of life lost due to early death or living in poor health in 2015.

Alcohol has a wider impact on our health than many people think.

“Reducing harmful alcohol consumption will reduce this impact, and that would benefit everyone: drinkers and non-drinkers, children and families, communities, the NHS and emergency services, employers and the economy. Preventative action is necessary if Scotland is to make long-term reductions in alcohol-related harm.”

Ms Tod added that the analysis shows that the impact of alcohol extends beyond those diseases that we commonly associate with drinking, to include conditions like cancer, strokes and injuries.

She added: “I think that all conditions caused by alcohol are a concern but we tried to quantify the impact that alcohol is having and the conditions that we’re living on and dying from in Scotland.

“The study highlights the important role of alcohol as a preventable cause of ill health and death in Scotland.”

The report was met with widespread concern by charities and politicians.

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Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: “It’s deeply concerning to see that alcohol is responsible for so many people dying from cancer in Scotland.

“Alcohol is linked to seven types of cancer including breast and bowel cancer, and the more you drink the greater your risk of cancer. Yet we know public awareness of the link between alcohol and cancer is low.”

The analysis found that alcohol contributed to a total of 3,705 deaths that year.

More of these deaths were from cancer (1,048) than liver disease and pancreatitis (812).

Other fatal conditions linked to drinking were heart conditions and strokes (544) , pneumonia (454) and unintentional injuries such as falls (357).

Minister for Public Health and Sport Aileen Campbell said: “This report highlights not just that excess alcohol consumption in itself kills, but that it contributes to so many diseases and conditions that can lead to poor health and early death.

“While huge progress has been made in recent years in tackling alcohol misuse, we want to go further – which includes Minimum Unit Pricing for alcohol which will be introduced in May this year.”