Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) and the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) will today (09 September) launch a new report presenting key findings and recommendations for policy and practice from their 2019/2020 Men and Alcohol seminar series.

The report highlights how alcohol consumption is closely connected to male identity, and that alcohol-related harms, both mental and physical, remain a significant issue for men in the UK, with men less likely to seek help for mental health problems. The report also draws attention to the potential impact of COVID-19 on health behaviours, and argues that cuts to services in the wake of the pandemic may impact negatively on alcohol-related harm.

Key recommendations for policy include calls to strengthen restrictions on alcohol availability; to enforce bans on alcohol advertising, sponsorship and promotion; to make alcohol less affordable via taxation and pricing policies, and to invest in youth services and ‘alcohol-free’ spaces to help prevent alcohol-related harm.

The report’s recommendations for practice address the need for all services to be joined-up, trauma-informed and exercising professional optimism, and emphasise that services should be guided by the expertise of individuals with lived experience in order to reduce the stigma of seeking help.

Lindsay Paterson, Interim Director of SHAAP, said:

“SHAAP is delighted to launch the Men and Alcohol: Key Issues report with our partner IAS today. This report showcases the important contributions and insights from the wide range of speakers that participated in our highly successful 2019/2020 Men and Alcohol seminar series, as well as making timely recommendations for policy and practice.

In Scotland, the alcohol-specific death rate for men was 2.2 times higher than women in 2018, and rates of alcohol-related stays in hospital were 2.5 times higher. These figures underscore the importance of understanding how alcohol use impacts on men’s mental and physical health in particular ways, if we are to tackle and reduce alcohol-related harms.

It is difficult at the moment to know what the long-term impacts of COVID-19 will be on people’s drinking behaviour, and how these may intersect with issues of gender and/or marginalisation when it comes to people accessing alcohol treatment and recovery services. In all eventualities, this report highlights how we must not lose ground in the gains we’ve made in regulating alcohol in Scotland, as well as the crucial importance of investing in alcohol treatment and recovery services, in addition to improving youth services and opportunities for skills and learning development”.

Dr Katherine Severi, Chief Executive of IAS, said:

“IAS is excited to be launching the Men and Alcohol: Key Issues report alongside SHAAP today. This report sheds important light on the particular impact that alcohol consumption can have on men’s mental and physical health, as well as how drinking alcohol affects and relates to male identity in the UK. These are important areas to understand if we are to reduce alcohol-related harm.

In England, approximately twice as many men die of alcohol-specific causes than women, and men are overrepresented in hospital admissions for alcohol related issues. Alcohol can also exacerbate mental health problems, including anxiety and depression, and men are less likely than women to seek help for mental health problems. This important report shows just how important it is to reduce alcohol-related harm in order to benefit people’s overall health and wellbeing.

Now, more than ever, there is an urgent need to implement evidence-based and ambitious policy solutions that can tackle alcohol-related harm in the UK. The Men and Alcohol: Key Issues report lays out clear recommendations for how to do this, drawing on specific lessons about the intersections between alcohol use, gender and identity, and what these can teach us for policy and practice”.

For a live summary of the webinar of the report launch, please follow the tweet thread from SHAAP.