A new study in The Lancet shows that Scotland’s minimum unit pricing policy reduced alcohol deaths by 13% over the two years and eight months following policy implementation.
The study compared deaths in Scotland and England to estimate the deaths that would have occurred had the policy not been implemented. It shows that those from the most socio-economically deprived areas in Scotland experienced the most significant reduction. Professor John Holmes of the University of Sheffield has called it “the clearest evidence to date that MUP has reduced the harm caused by alcohol in Scotland”.
IAS’s chief executive Dr Katherine Severi said:
“Today’s study shows that action on cheap, strong alcohol saves lives and reduces inequalities. With alcohol-related deaths in England at an all-time high, the Government must introduce MUP to ensure we do not become the sick nation of the UK.
“A 13% reduction in deaths due to alcohol in England would prevent hundreds of families experiencing grief and loss each year. As alcohol harm disproportionately affects the most disadvantaged groups in society, introducing MUP would help in levelling up across our four nations.”
Dr Sadie Boniface, head of research at IAS, explained the findings in more detail:
“The Lancet and PHS press releases both accurately reflect the findings of this important study, which adds to a large and consistent evidence base on the effectiveness of alcohol pricing policies.
“This is high quality research using official data on deaths and hospitalisations, and the main finding of a 13% reduction in deaths from alcohol is highly significant, in both health and statistical terms. The authors appropriately use England as a control group and have addressed other factors such as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions.
“This research is part of the ‘minimum unit pricing evaluation portfolio’, meaning this research was a pre-planned part of the evaluation of this policy. A study protocol and analysis plan were published in advance, which is good practice, and these are further reasons to be confident in the findings.
“The results fit with earlier real-world evidence from Scotland that alcohol consumption decreased following the introduction of minimum unit pricing, and they are in line with findings of modelling studies from before the policy was introduced. The decrease in deaths was bigger in the more disadvantaged group, which again fits with the findings from modelling studies that minimum pricing helps to narrow health inequalities.
“This study only looks at the first 32 months of minimum pricing in Scotland. Previous evidence suggests these health gains should continue into the future, although high levels of inflation risk watering down the impact of the policy as it currently stands.”