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Alcohol-related deaths

30/06/2009

New research shows alcohol-related illnesses could be killing one in 20 Scots - twice as many as previously thought.

The study totalled the proportion of 53 different causes of death - ranging from stomach cancer and strokes to assaults and road deaths - in which alcohol consumption played a part, to show that nearly 3,000 deaths in 2003 were alcohol-related.

This is double the figure for deaths from illnesses caused almost entirely by alcohol consumption alone, such as alcoholic liver disease.

It means one Scot may be dying from alcohol-related causes every three hours.

While alcohol-related deaths accounted for five per cent of all deaths in Scotland, this proportion rises to more than a quarter of deaths in men and a fifth of women aged 35-44.

In addition, around 41,414 people were discharged from hospital due to alcohol consumption - more than one in twenty (7.3 per cent) of patients over 16, and 50 per cent higher than figures based on wholly attributable conditions.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said:

"This research shows that alcohol misuse is taking an even higher toll on Scotland's health than previously thought.

"To have one in 20 Scots dying from alcohol-related causes is a truly shocking statistic.

"Drinking alcohol is part of Scottish culture, but it's clear that many people are drinking too much and damaging their health in the process.

"Alcohol misuse is the biggest public health challenge we face and the Scottish Government has made crystal clear our determination to get to grips with it."

Cancer deaths accounted for just over a fifth (21.7 per cent) of all alcohol attributable deaths.

A total of 2,374 of the 2,882 deaths (82.4 per cent) linked to alcohol were in people under the age of 75. And of these, 1,080 deaths were people under the age of 55.

The calculations are based on consumption data from the Scottish Health Survey 2003, updated to reflect the increasing strength of alcoholic drinks. Conditions were identified where alcohol increased the likelihood of developing the condition and this information was applied to consumption patterns to calculate the proportion of deaths from a particular condition attributable to alcohol. New Scottish Health Survey data due for publication later this year will allow updated mortality figures to be calculated.

The study, published by ISD Scotland, also indicated that 1,493 heart disease deaths may have been prevented by low levels of alcohol consumption, although drinking even at low levels was found to be a risk factor for almost all the other conditions. Furthermore, the positive effects of low consumption in relation to heart disease were cancelled out by higher consumption.

Last week the Scottish Government held an Alcohol Summit which brought together representatives from all the political parties, alcohol industry, NHS, retailers and academics to discuss the measures outlined in the Alcohol Framework.