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Alcohol consumption statistics

27/05/2008

Figures updated to reflect the increasing strength of alcoholic drinks show many more Scottish drinkers than previously thought could be putting their health at risk.

Recalculated figures from the 2003 Scottish Health Survey show that 34 percent of men consume more than their recommended weekly limit of 21 units, with 23 percent of women drinking more than their recommended 14 units per week.

These figures for men and women are up from 27 percent and 14 percent respectively under the old calculations.

The statistics also show that 63 percent of men drank more than the recommended four units on their heaviest drinking day in the week prior to being surveyed, while 64 percent of women drank more than their recommended three units.

In fact, 40 percent of men and 33 percent of women are 'binge drinking' at least double the recommended daily unit intake on their heaviest drinking day.

The effect of the revisions of the 2003 findings is greater for women than men, mainly due to the fact that the change in unit conversion factors has had a greater impact on wine than on other types of drink and women are more likely to be wine drinkers.

The new figures come just two days after an NHS Health Scotland study (published on May 25) demonstrated that surveys significantly underestimate consumption levels.

Shona Robison, Minister for Public Health, said:

"These figures highlight a troubling reality: far too many Scots are regularly drinking more than the recommended amounts, putting their health at risk in both the short and long term.

"What's even more worrying is that, given NHS Health Scotland's findings, the true scale of alcohol misuse is likely to be significantly worse than even these figures suggest.

"We have to dispel the myth that alcohol related harm is a marginal problem, that it affects only those with chronic alcohol dependency, or so-called 'binge drinkers'.

"We need to rebalance Scotland's relationship with alcohol and enable people to make more positive choices about their alcohol use. Although there are no quick fixes, we feel this is a realistic goal. We are in this for the long term.

"We are planning to publish our proposals for tackling alcohol misuse for consultation in the summer."

A Scottish Government report published earlier this month estimated that alcohol misuse could be costing Scotland as much as £2.25 billion every year in costs to the to business, the NHS, social services, police and courts.

The Scottish Government will invest over £120 million over the next three years to help prevent alcohol misuse and provide support and treatment to those who need it. This figure includes £85 million of extra investment in this area.

In December 2007, the Office for National Statistics published an updated method of converting drink volumes to alcohol units and this method is now being used to estimate alcohol consumption in the UK. To preserve comparability with estimates from other parts of the UK, and to better reflect the current position relating to alcohol consumption, this new method has been applied to the Scottish Health Survey data for 2003.

This method was recommended in a Health Scotland report, 'How much are people in Scotland really drinking?', published on May 25 this year.

A more detailed publication on June 24, 2008 will update all of the analysis included in the 2003 Scottish Health Survey alcohol chapter for adults.