Today the National Records of Scotland (NRS) have published new data
[opens PDF in new window] for alcohol-specific deaths registered in Scotland in 2022. The number of alcohol-specific deaths has increased by 2% to 1,276 in 2022, up from 1,245 in 2021.
- Female deaths increased by 31 to 440 deaths in 2022, with the number of alcohol-specific male deaths unchanged from 2021. Male deaths continue to account for around two thirds of alcohol-specific deaths.
- The rate of mortality for alcohol-specific deaths was 22.9 deaths per 100,000 people in 2022, similar to the rate of 22.3 per 100,000 people in 2021 (the increase is not statistically significant). This measure takes into account the size and age-structure of the population.
- After adjusting for age, the alcohol-specific mortality rate was higher than the Scottish average in the health board areas of Western Isles, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and Lanarkshire.
- Alcohol-specific deaths were 4.3 times as high in the most deprived areas of Scotland compared to the least deprived areas in 2022. This compares to a ratio of 1.8 times for all causes of death. Over time, this ratio has generally decreased (from a high 8.9 in 2002 to a low of 4.3 in 2022).
Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, Chair of SHAAP, commented:
“We are saddened to see that the number of people who lost their lives to alcohol once again increased in 2022. It is important to recognise that each of these 1,276 deaths represents a personal tragedy which could have been prevented.
“Scotland is facing an ongoing crisis with alcohol which requires urgent attention. We simply cannot continue to accept this level of avoidable alcohol harm as the Scottish reality.
“The Scottish Government must do more to ensure that this level of harm does not continue. It is essential that our Government addresses this public health emergency with the appropriate urgency and priority.
“It is vital that policies such as MUP remain in place to continue to reduce alcohol-related harms. The level at which MUP is set should be raised to at least 65p to maintain its benefit.
“Alongside this, the Scottish Government must address the wider availability and marketing of alcohol, in order to tackle the inescapable exposure to alcohol experienced by children and other vulnerable groups, such as people in recovery.
“Increased funding and resources for alcohol services are also essential to support those with an existing alcohol problem.
All these measures in combination would see a much greater impact on the number of people dying as a result of alcohol in the years to come.”
Professor Andrew Elder, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said:
“ The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh is deeply concerned by these new figures and our thoughts go out to the family and friends of each and every individual who has lost their life due to alcohol. Although today’s figures focus on deaths, the health harms of alcohol are much broader and witnessed by families, friends and clinicians each and every day in Scotland.
“ We continue to urge the Scottish Government to recognise that the increasing number of alcohol deaths is a public health emergency and needs to be treated as such, with additional new actions and investment across both recovery support and preventative policies.
“ MUP has an important role to play as part of this approach and the recent comprehensive analysis of its effectiveness demonstrated that it is helping to save lives. We support the level of MUP being uprated to at least 65p so that it can have an even greater and more positive effect on reducing Scotland’s alcohol harms.
“ We also urge the Scottish Government to work closely with the medical experts and clinicians, including those in SHAAP, who have so much knowledge in this field and who have a great to deal to offer as we seek to identify how we can better tackle and prevent alcohol misuse and help people with alcohol addictions recover.”
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said:
“The crushing news that the number of people who lost their lives to alcohol in Scotland has risen again is a grave reminder that we are in the midst of a public health crisis with alcohol. Each of one of the 1,276 deaths was entirely preventable and presents a tragic loss for the loved ones and communities left behind.
“Policy makers have the tools available to reduce the levels of alcohol harm on society, they just need the political will and leadership to match. While we have seen encouraging activity in recent years with the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing, without which the loss of life would have been greater, more needs to be done.
“Urgent action to improve access, quality and outcomes of treatment is essential. But evidence-based prevention policies such as the continuation of Minimum Unit Pricing, adequate alcohol duty and restrictions on marketing are also required if we are to protect children, families and communities from the increasingly devastating harms caused by alcohol.”
Today, as the Scottish alcohol-related deaths statistics for 2022 are released, campaigners call for compassion for everyone who has lost someone due to alcohol and other drugs.
The See Beyond - See the Lives – Scotland campaign - run by the University of Stirling, Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, and The Salvation Army aims to challenge the judgement and stereotypes that people often bring to the topic of substance use.
The campaign asks website visitors to sign a pledge: committing to be respectful and compassionate towards those affected by substance use; to use non-judgemental language when talking about substance use problems; and to reach out to those they know who have been affected (in order to reduce the isolation and stigma that can be faced by individuals who have been bereaved in this way). It also includes advice on how media outlets can compassionately report on stories about addiction and substance use.
MSPs Monica Lennon and Miles Briggs are prominent supporters of the campaign, sharing their personal stories of losing a parent to alcohol, and are encouraging others to do likewise, in a bid to reduce stigma surrounding alcohol and drugs deaths
Monica Lennon MSP, Convenor of Holyrood’s Cross-Party Group on Drug and Alcohol Misuse, commented:
“As someone who has experienced the complex and devastating impact of losing a loved one to alcohol, I am extremely proud to be backing the ‘See Beyond – See the Lives’ campaign.
“Stigma is not only an unhelpful by-product of alcohol and other drug problems, but is also a significant barrier for people to seek help.
“If we want to save lives and change the Scottish relationship with alcohol and other drugs, reducing the stigma associated with substance use is essential.
“By sharing my story as part of this campaign, I hope to encourage other people to talk more about the effect of alcohol and other drug use on families and loved ones, and to consider the real people behind these deaths.”
Miles Briggs MSP commented:
“Today’s release of the Scottish alcohol deaths statistics is a stark reminder that we need to be doing more to reduce the stigma around alcohol problems.
“Despite the extremely high levels of alcohol harm and widespread awareness in Scotland, there is still major stigma attached to alcohol problems – from the way in which people discuss this to the beliefs they have about the kind of people affected.
“That is why this campaign is so important: in order to tackle stigma we must remember that everyone really does know somebody affected. Alcohol problems are present in all walks of life and by talking about it we can work together to reduce harms.”
Elinor Jayne, SHAAP Director, commented:
“Almost everybody in Scotland will know someone who has felt the heart-breaking impact of losing a loved one to alcohol or other drugs.
“As this year’s publication on Scottish alcohol deaths is released, it is vital to highlight that these are not just statistics, these are all real people who have tragically lost their life and have left a family and friends in complex and devastating grief.
“In reducing the stigma associated with alcohol and drug problems, this campaign aims to encourage us all to treat people who’ve lost someone to alcohol or drugs with compassion, as well as aiming to break down stigma so more people seek help. This in turn we hope will reduce the heart-breaking number of lives being lost.”