Alcohol death rates higher in Scotland

People in Scotland are more likely to die from alcohol-related causes than those in comparable parts of northern England, according to an NHS study.

Sales of alcohol per person were 13% higher in the “de-industrialised” region than in north-east England and deaths were 67% higher, according to research at NHS Health Scotland and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health.

Compared with north-west England, sales in central Scotland were 12% higher and deaths were 47% higher.

The research is based on data for 2010 and 2011.

Mark Robinson, public health information manager at NHS Health Scotland and study lead, said: “The regions selected in this study were chosen on the basis that they had high alcohol-related death rates compared with the rest of Great Britain and were also de-industrialised and relatively deprived.

“By comparing these regions using the best available data, the results provide support for the well-established link between population alcohol consumption and alcohol-related mortality.”

Report co-author Dr Deborah Shipton, public health research specialist at the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, said: “Until now we have had to rely on self-report surveys to compare consumption levels in Scotland with those in northern England.

“These have generally shown little difference between areas.

“The sales data used in this study are considered the gold standard and will be essential for evaluating the impact of different alcohol policy approaches north and south of the border.”

The report considers that central Scotland takes in much of the central belt, Ayrshire, west and central Fife, Argyll and parts of the south-west Highlands.

Researchers said it is the first time that such alcohol sales data has been used to estimate consumption for regions within Great Britain.

The clearest difference between regions is the “substantially higher” level of spirits sold in supermarkets and off-licences in central Scotland. This was partly offset by higher levels of beer consumption in northern England.

Sales of spirits were 66% higher per head than in north-east England and 59% higher than in north-west England.

In contrast, compared with central Scotland, beer sales were 12% higher per head in north-east England and 9% higher in north-west England.

More alcohol is sold per person and there are more alcohol-related deaths in north-east and north-west England than in England and Wales overall, the report also found.