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Scotland's relationship with alcohol changing for the better: MESAS study

Results from the 4th annual Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy report (published 8 December) have found across-the-board improvements in consumption, mortality and morbidity since the introduction of Scotland's alcohol strategy in 2009. 

Headline figures state that alcohol consumption has dropped by 9 per cent since from its 2009 peak, equivalent to about nine million fewer bottles of wine, three million fewer bottles of spirits or 38 million fewer pints of beer per year. This has had a beneficial impact on Scotland's health, with 35 per cent fewer alcohol-related deaths than 2003 and a drop in related new patient (hospitalisation) rates of a quarter since 2007/08. 

But despite this decline, alcohol-related death rates remain 1.4 times higher than in 1981 and admission rates still 1.3 times higher than in 1991/92. 17 per cent more alcohol is sold in Scotland than in England and Wales too, mainly due to higher sales through supermarkets and off-licences in Scotland, particularly of lower-priced spirits. 

The evaluation notes the partial successes in the implementation of policy measures including Alcohol Brief Interventions (ABIs), increased investment in treatment and care services, and banning multi-buy discounts in the off-trade. But the full impact of Scotland's alcohol strategy is yet to be felt, with the introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP) currently on hold due to a legal challenge led by the Scotch Whisky Association. 

The full MESAS report and supporting datasets can be accessed from the Publications section of the NHS Scotland website.