What we drink

Over the past 40 years, alcohol consumption in the UK has doubled, rising from 5.7 litres of pure alcohol per person (16+) in 1960 to 11.5 litres in 2007. This rise in consumption has been accompanied by an increase in alcohol-related morbidity, mortality and social harm. 

In Scotland, nine out of ten adults drink alcohol. For three quarters of Scots, the most common drinking location is the home and this proportion increases by age. 

Information on Scottish adult drinking behaviour can be found in the Scottish Health Survey. In 2017 19.6 units of alcohol were sold per adult per week, representing 40% more than the Chief Medical Officer's low-risk drinking guidelines of 14 units per week for men and women. According to the last survey published in 2017, levels of hazardous or harmful drinking were higher in men (33%) than for women (16%). Men drink twice as much as women (16.4 units per week, compared to 8.6).

Actual alcohol consumption in Scotland is likely to be significantly highly than the Scottish Health Survey suggests as people are known to under-report the amount of alcohol they drink in surveys. The extent of survey underestimation is considered in a report by the Scottish Public Health Observatory (2018), How much are people in Scotland really drinking?