Alcohol-related deaths rising in younger Scots women

DEATHS linked to alcohol are rising among younger women in Scotland, research has shown.

Alcohol-related deaths across Scotland as a whole have dropped. Picture: TSPL

While alcohol-related deaths across Scotland as a whole have dropped, mortality rates among women in their 30s and 40s are going up.

Experts said the “worrying” increase was a sign that action was needed now to prevent the trend continuing, with devastating consequences.

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The latest study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, focused on deaths linked to alcohol in Glasgow, compared to with those in Manchester and Liverpool, which have similar levels of poor health and deprivation.

Deaths in the three cities were analysed from the 1980s to 2011 by a team from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, looking at factors such as age, gender and decade of birth.

In the early 1980s, rates of alcohol-related deaths were three times as high in Glasgow compared with the other cities. Over the following 30 years, rates rose across all three locations.

A sharp increase in deaths was seen after 1993 in Glasgow, but by the early 2000s rates had stabilised and later fell.

The highest proportion of alcohol-related deaths was among those in their 40s and 50s, with deaths two to three times higher in men than women.

But the researchers discovered a pattern of rising deaths among women born in the 1970s, compared with a fall among men of the same age.

Among women born in the 1950s in Glasgow, by the time they were 34, there were eight deaths per 100,000 population. This rose to 14 per 100,000 among those born in the 1960s and 20 for the 1970s group.

By contrast, rates in men started dropping over time – with 22 deaths per 100,000 by the age of 34 in the 1950s group, rising to 38 for the those born in the 1960s but then dropping to 30 among the 1970s group.

Researcher Dr Deborah Shipton said: “Most of the [alcohol] deaths are taken up by those in their 50s and 60s, but what we are seeing in this age group is that the death rate is rising and in women it is rising disproportionately higher than in men.

“So although men have higher levels of alcohol harm, the increase in women is faster, so they are starting to catch up with the men.

“These are emerging trends and if they continue they will have important ramifications for the health of that group.”

Similar rises in deaths among younger women were reported in Manchester and Liverpool, suggesting England is seeing the same problem.

Dr Shipton said another study had seen a rise in deaths among younger women in Dundee and they expected the trend would be mirrored across Scotland.

The researchers said it was “imperative” this early warning sign was acted upon now, and they backed the idea of minimum pricing, as proposed by the Scottish Government.

Barbara O’Donnell, deputy chief executive at Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “These premature deaths which cut young lives short are entirely preventable.”