The number of alcohol-specific deaths has increased by 17% to 1,190 in 2020, up from 1,020 in 2019, according to statistics on deaths by various causes published today by National Records of Scotland.
This is the largest number of deaths due to alcohol recorded in Scotland since 2008.
Other key findings show that in 2020:
- Probable suicide deaths decreased by 3% to 805 deaths, from 833 in 2019. There was a downward trend in probable suicide deaths in Scotland from the early 2000s until 2017, followed by increases in 2018 and 2019.
- There was a 1.1% decrease, to 6,352, in deaths where Alzheimer’s and other dementias were the underlying cause.
- There were 2,759 accidental deaths in Scotland, a 1.2% increase compared with 2019. The majority of accidental deaths were the result of accidental poisonings or falls.
- The death rate from all causes for people in the most deprived areas is 1.9 times that of those in the least deprived. Death rates for drug-related (18.4 times as large) alcohol-specific deaths (4.3 times as large), and suicides (3.0 times as large) were notably higher in the most deprived areas.
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said:
“It is devastating to hear that the number of deaths linked to alcohol harm has increased in Scotland. This follows a similar pattern to elsewhere in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic and demonstrates the urgent need to act on this parallel health crisis.
“We cannot afford to continue ignoring the damage that alcohol is inflicting on communities around the UK. Though the Scottish Government has led the way with innovative alcohol harm prevention policies – like minimum unit pricing – there is still more to do to tackle alcohol harm including ensuring access to alcohol treatment for all who need it. This must be backed up by urgent action from the UK Government in the form of effective alcohol taxes and alcohol advertising restrictions on TV and online to protect children. Lives depend on it.”
Alison Douglas, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said:
“Last year we saw a positive reduction in the number of deaths caused by alcohol. This sudden increase of 17% is devastating to see and a tragedy for everyone affected. It is a stark reminder that we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball where alcohol harm is concerned.
“Scotland has made good progress in addressing the problems we have with alcohol by introducing policies like minimum unit pricing which is showing promising results. Yet the impact of the pandemic threatens to undermine this progress. Many people, particularly heavier drinkers, have reported that they have increased their drinking during the last 18 months. The effects are felt most by those living in our poorest communities, who are eight times more likely to die due to alcohol.
“If we are to prevent more people losing their lives to alcohol and to reduce health inequalities we need to redouble our efforts by reducing the availability of alcohol, restricting its marketing and by uprating minimum unit price. Importantly, we also need to make sure that support is available to those who need it now. We have recently seen a significant investment in drug treatment in response to the increasing numbers of people who are tragically losing their lives to drugs. To reduce the long-term impact of the pandemic this needs to be matched with investment in recovery-oriented alcohol services.”