Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2021/22: Public attitudes on alcohol and tobacco use and weight
A report on the findings from the 2021/22 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey module on public attitudes about where responsibility lies with respect to those with harmful alcohol use, high tobacco use and those living with overweight or obesity.
This document is part of a collection
The Scottish Social Attitudes (SSA) survey is run annually by ScotCen Social Research, with the aim of collecting objective data about public attitudes on issues relevant to Scotland. In 2021/22, 1,130 randomly selected people aged 16+ from 1,043 addresses were interviewed. The data has been weighted to be representative of Scotland's adult population in terms of age, sex and area deprivation.
The questions covered in this report are about public attitudes towards people with harmful alcohol use, high tobacco use and those living with overweight or obesity, see Appendix A.
The findings of this 2021/22 survey can be used to inform future policies for the Scottish Government and other organisations in Scotland, which support the reduction of stigmatising attitudes.
Attitudes (individual versus societal) around responsibility for harmful alcohol use, high tobacco use and in relation to those living with overweight or obesity
Of the three health issues, the public were most likely to agree that people who smoke heavily (44%) 'have only themselves to blame'.
- Around a quarter (27%) agreed that 'people who are overweight or obese have only themselves to blame'.
- A smaller proportion thought that 'people with serious drinking problems have only themselves to blame' (17%).
Attitudes varied between men and women, by age and level of education:
- Men were more likely than women to agree that people who are heavy smokers (48% compared with 39%) and people who are overweight or obese 'have only themselves to blame' (34% compared with 22%).
- Older adults (age 65+) were more likely to agree (35%) than younger adults aged 16-34 (20%) that people who are overweight or obese 'have only themselves to blame'.
- Those with no qualifications were more likely than those educated to at least degree level to agree that people have only themselves to blame across all three health issues:
- Those with serious drinking problems (47% with no qualifications versus 15% with degree-level)
- Those who are heavy smokers (70% with no qualifications versus 42% with degree-level)
- Those who are overweight or obese (49% with no qualifications versus 26% with degree-level)
- For the most part, those who were understanding of people with harmful alcohol use were also more understanding of those with high tobacco use. This was also found in relation to problem drug use.
- Large majorities agreed that it's in all our interests to give help and support to 'people who have serious drinking problems' (91%) and 'people who are overweight or obese' (84%).
Respondents were asked who, if any, from a list of seven options should be responsible for reducing the number of people who are overweight or obese in Scotland. Respondents could select as many options as they wished. The most commonly selected options were:
- 'individuals who are overweight and obese themselves' (88%)
- 'parents and carers' (84%)
- 'food and drink manufacturers' (70%)
- 'doctors and nurses' (68%).
A smaller percentage (60%) thought that 'supermarkets and food retailers' should be responsible.
Further analysis reveals that a large majority (78%) in both 2021/22, and previously in 2016 for a similar question, feel that a combination of society and individuals should be responsible for trying to reduce the number of people who are overweight or obese.
Those from the least deprived areas felt it was a combined societal and individual responsibility (85%) compared to those from the most deprived areas (68%), with those from the most deprived areas also the group more likely to think it should just be a societal responsibility (14% compared to least deprived 1%).
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