Rise in alcohol-related illness and death


More evidence is published today of the social cost of too many Scots drinking too much.

Figures published by Information Statistics Division show that over the last five years alcohol-related deaths are increasing and that the numbers of patients treated in hospital with alcohol-related illnesses are also up.

Deputy Health Minister Lewis Macdonald said:

"Scotland has a long established culture of heavy drinking which carries a significant financial and human cost to society. We all need to face up to the massive problems this causes.

"Drinking too much can cause long term health problems including liver damage and increased risk of heart disease and stroke. It can also increase the risk of breast cancer.

"Figures out last week showed that emergency admissions for alcohol-related disease and conditions had increased - in some cases more than doubled.

"As expected, the figures out today also show that alcohol-related discharges from general hospitals have increased by 17 per cent. Alcohol-related deaths have increased over the last year and the trend over the last five years also shows that deaths have increased by 21 per cent.

"This further underlines the scale of the problem. That is why we are taking extensive measures to tackle alcohol misuse and binge drinking.

"Government has a role to play in tackling alcohol related problems. But each and every one of us has a responsibility to respect alcohol and to drink sensibly.

"Our licensing system dated back to the 1970s, and no longer reflects Scottish society in the 21st century. That is why we passed legislation to reform outdated licensing laws.

"The new licensing laws will respond to changing habits and behaviour. These reforms include measures to tackle the irresponsible promotions that fuel binge drinking.

"We also have a plan for action on alcohol which sets out long term measures to reduce alcohol related harm in Scotland. We will continue to educate people about the dangers of drinking to excess.

"We will publish an update of the plan early in the new year. It will set out to build a Scotland in which we treat alcohol with respect and understand the consequences that excessive drinking brings.

"Clearly changes in behaviour cannot be achieved overnight. This is why we are committed to working with bodies including the NHS, the licensed trade, local authorities, schools, parents, the police and voluntary organisations to achieve a major cultural shift."

The alcohol related health and mortality statistics show:

  • In 2004-05, there were 40,448 discharges from acute general hospitals with an alcohol-related diagnosis, a rate of 748 per 100,000 population. Over the last five years, the discharge rate has increased by 17 per cent from 639 per 100,000 population in 2000-01
  • Alcohol-related discharges were more common among males than females, with the 2004-05 male rate (1,121 per 100,000) being nearly three times that of females (407 per 100,000)
  • The specific alcohol-related conditions vary with age. For example, in the under 18s, 60 per cent (667 discharges) of all such diagnoses in 2004-05 related to acute intoxification, while the equivalent figure for those aged 45 and over was 14 per cent (3,600). Alcoholic liver disease accounted for only 0.4 per cent of discharges (4 discharges) in under 18s, but 19 per cent (4,804) in those aged 45 years and over
  • The council areas with the highest alcohol-related discharge rates in 2004-05 were Western Isles (1,554 per 100,000), Glasgow City (1,430 per 100,000) and Inverclyde (1,254 per 100,000). The lowest rates were seen in East Dunbartonshire (321 per 100,000), Angus (357 per 100,000) and Aberdeenshire (418 per 100,000)
  • In 2004-05, 7,754 discharges (19 per cent) involved an emergency admission and, of these, 4,259 (55 per cent) were admitted on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Such admissions were more common among the under 18 year olds, with 667 discharges (60 percent) being classified as emergencies and 514 (77 percent) occurring on a weekend
  • There were a total of 2,052 alcohol related deaths in 2004. Over the last five years the number of alcohol related deaths has risen 21 per cent, from 1,694 to 2,052 people
  • Male deaths exceeded those of females by approximately 3 to 1 (males 1,515, females 537)

3. The plan for action on alcohol has, among other things, led to:

  • launch of national communications campaigns to target binge drinking amongst young people;
  • £10m being made available to local Alcohol Action Teams during 2005-06 and a commitment to making these same sums available in 2006-07 to tackle alcohol problems. This is in addition to existing resources to tackle alcohol problems currently provided in NHS Board and local authority general allocations
  • agreement that Alcohol Action Teams be assessed in terms of their current contribution to the delivery of the Plan and ensuring that Best Value is being secured from our investment in them. The last such review took place in 1999 and since then both the resources and demands placed upon these teams have increased considerably
  • development of a national alcohol information resource for those who plan and provide alcohol problem services
  • implementation of a support and treatment services framework for use by all who plan, commission and manage alcohol support and treatment services for people in the statutory, voluntary and independent sectors
  • publication of a guide for parents to help them talk to their children about the dangers of alcohol