New data regarding alcohol consumption and pricing has been shared by Public Health Scotland.
On Tuesday, the national public health body shared the MESAS Monitoring Report 2022, as part of the continued delivery of the Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS) programme.
The yearly report offers the latest available information and key statistics on alcohol consumption, price, related harms and inequalities.
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According to the research, in 2021, population-level alcohol consumption – estimated from alcohol retail sales – was maintained at a similar level to 2020, the lowest level seen in Scotland in the available time series (1994 onwards).
It also reveals that 9.4 litres of pure alcohol were sold per adult, equivalent to an average consumption of 18.1 units per adult per week and substantially exceeding the low risk weekly drinking guideline of 14 units.
In 2021, the pandemic affected where most Scots purchased their alcohol, as venues such as pubs and clubs were closed or otherwise operating at reduced capacity.
Due to this, 85% of all pure alcohol sold in Scotland was through supermarkets and other off-licences — compared with 72% in 2019.
The volume of pure alcohol sold per adult in Scotland was 4% higher than in England and Wales, the smallest difference seen between the two areas and a reduction from last year.
Additionally, the average cost of alcohol sold in Scottish supermarkets and off-licences increased to 64 pence per unit in 2021, rising from 63p in 2020.
In 2021, the majority (62%) of pure alcohol sold in Scotland was recorded as being sold at between 50.0p and 64.9p per unit, compared to 32% before Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) was implemented.
The research also revealed that alcohol poisoning continues to be a leading cause of death in Scotland, with 1,190 people dying due to a cause wholly attributable to alcohol in 2020.
This equates to an average of almost 23 people per week.
Alcohol-specific death rates increased between 2019 and 2020, an increase that was largely driven by deaths amongst men aged 45 years and over.
Both rates of alcohol-specific death and alcohol-related hospital stays continue to be at least twice as high for men as women and were highest in the 55–64 year age group.
Public Health Intelligence Adviser at Public Health Scotland Vicki Ponce Hardy said: “Today’s MESAS report shows that population-level alcohol consumption in Scotland has been maintained at a similar level to that seen in 2020, the lowest level observed in the available data.
"However, it also clearly highlights that significant inequalities persist in both alcohol consumption and the harm it causes. The most recent survey data show that almost a quarter (24%) of adults in Scotland still drink more that the recommended low risk weekly drinking guideline.
"Among those exceeding the guideline, it’s those in the lowest income group who are likely to consume the most."
She continued: "In the 10% most deprived areas of Scotland, rates of alcohol-specific death were nearly five times higher, and alcohol-related hospital stays were nearly eight times higher, than in the 10% least deprived areas.
"Like all harm caused by alcohol, this is preventable. Public Health Scotland will continue to monitor and evaluate Scotland’s alcohol strategy, to gauge progress and understand what works to reduce the harm alcohol causes.”