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Alcohol Harms in Scotland
Tackling Scotland's Alcohol Problem

ALCOHOL HARMS IN SCOTLAND

Alcohol-specific deaths

 

 

 

  •  There were 1,276 alcohol-specific deaths registered in Scotland in 2022, an increase of 2% (31 deaths) on 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).

 

Source: Alcohol-specific deaths 2022, National Records of Scotland. 

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Alcohol-related hospital admissions

 

  • In 2020/21 there were 33,015 alcohol-related hospital stays in general acute hospitals. This is equivalent to an age-sex standardised rate of 614 inpatient stays per 100,000 population.
  • In 2020/21, rates of alcohol-related hospital stays in Scotland were 2.3 times higher among men (851 per 100,000 population) than women (376 per 100,000 population).
  • Rates also differ by age: in 2020/21, the 55–64 year age group had the highest rate of alcohol-related hospital stays at 993 per 100,000 population.
  • In 2020/21, rates of alcohol-related stays were eight times higher in the 10% most deprived areas in Scotland than in the 10% least deprived areas.
  • In total 21,480 people were admitted to a general acute hospital with an alcohol-related diagnosis in 2020/21, meaning that some people had more than one admission in the year.

 

Source: The Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland's Alcohol Strategy (MESAS) monitoring report 2022.

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The burden of alcohol on ambulance services in Scotland

86,780 ambulance callouts were identified as alcohol-related in 2019, using a new method based on the notes taken by paramedics at the scene. This figure, an average of more than 230 call-outs every day, is more than three times higher than previously reported.

This work is part of the IMPAACT (The Impact of Minimum Unit Pricing of Alcohol on Ambulance Call-outs in Scotland) study led by Professor Niamh Fitzgerald at the University of Stirling. The work was funded by the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office (HIPS 18/57) and published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Whilst paramedics have long described a heavy burden of alcohol on the Scottish ambulance service, this is the first study to accurately quantify that burden in a robust way that can be routinely monitored.  Ambulance services often represent a patient’s first – and sometimes only – contact with health services for a particular alcohol-related issue. 

In new research led by Francesco Manca and Professor Jim Lewsey at the University of Glasgow and published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, researchers reveal a new approach to accurately determine how many ambulance callouts are alcohol-related. The work was part of a study led by Professor Niamh Fitzgerald at the University of Stirling, and was also co-authored by colleagues at the University of Sheffield and the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS).

Using data from SAS, the team of researchers were able to build a highly accurate algorithm that searched paramedic notes in patient records for references to alcohol.  Applying this automated method to records from 2019, they found that one in six ambulance callouts (16.2%) was alcohol-related. This rose to over one in four (28.2%) at weekend nighttimes (6pm to 6am).

The algorithm showed that age was an important factor – with alcohol being related to approximately a quarter of callouts for those aged under 40 years old, but less than 7% in those aged 70 years old and above. Socio-economic deprivation was also found to be a factor. For callouts to addresses in the most deprived areas, 20% were deemed to be alcohol-related, while for callouts in the least deprived areas, 10% were alcohol-related.

The algorithm was found to perform very well (99% accuracy) in identifying callouts from notes when compared to the professional judgement of an experienced paramedic who reviewed complete patient records. This method also has the advantage over previous methods of being easy for SAS to apply routinely to monitor alcohol-related callouts over time.  Prior methods resulted in either large underestimates or used reports from staff surveys which could not be tested for accuracy or routinely carried out.

Source: Alcohol burden on ambulance service in Scotland three times higher than previous estimates | About | University of Stirling

Source: The effect of a minimum price per unit of alcohol in Scotland on alcohol‐related ambulance call‐outs: A controlled interrupted time−series analysis - Manca - 2024 - Addiction - Wiley Online Library

Read a blog post by Francesco Manca, Professor Jim Lewsey and Professor Niamh Fitzgerald discussing the study with IAS:More accurate estimates for the burden of Alcohol on the Ambulance Service: around 1 in 6 callouts in Scotland are alcohol related - Institute of Alcohol Studies (ias.org.uk)

Alcohol Harm Profiles

Problematic alcohol use has been estimated to cost the Scottish economy £3.56 billion each year. Local alcohol harm profiles detail alcohol-related measurable health trends in NHS Scotland Health Boards. Alcohol harm can affect not only individual health but also family life and public safety.

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