Health costs

  • 1,235 alcohol-related deaths (ARDs) were registered in Scotland in 2017 - that's 22 per week.
  • The main cause of such deaths is alcohol-related liver disease, accounting for 738 deaths (60%), followed by mental and behavioural disorders (321 deaths or 22%)
  • The number of people diagnosed with alcoholic liver disease has increased by 52% since 1998.
  • Men are twice as likely to have an alcohol-related death than women, and most of these deaths occurred in men and women aged between 55-64 from 1981-2017
  • Those living in the most deprived areas were more than six times more likely to die an alcohol-related death than those living in the least deprived areas
  • One in six deaths on Scotland's roads is caused by drink driving.
  • Alcohol is a contributory factor in over half of deaths in fires in Scotland.
  • You are twice as likely to die of an alcohol-related health problem in Scotland than in the rest of the UK.
    Image Scots men and women mortality 1950 2000

    For more information on the impact of alcohol on mortality in Scotland, download SHAAP's report published September 2018.dying for a drink cover

Diseases linked to alcohol

Alcohol is a dependence-inducing, psychoactive drug which is linked to around 60 different diseases and conditions. Average alcohol consumption is causally related to the following major diseases:

  • tuberculosis
  • mouth, nasopharynx, other pharynx and oropharynx cancer
  • oesophageal cancer
  • colon and rectum cancer
  • liver cancer
  • female breast cancer
  • diabetes mellitus
  • alcohol-related brain damage
  • unipolar depressive disorders
  • epilepsy
  • hypertensive heart disease
  • ischaemic heart disease (IHD)
  • ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke
  • conduction disorders and other dysrhythmias
  • lower respiratory infections (pneumonia)
  • cirrhosis of the liver
  • preterm birth complications and Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.

For most conditions in which alcohol is a factor, there is a dose dependent relationship. That is, the more alcohol is consumed, the greater the risk of alcohol-related health harm.

There is no guaranteed safe level of alcohol consumption. Government guidelines in Scotland and the UK recommend no more than 14 units per week to keep the risk of health damage low.