Alcohol sales in Scotland have dropped to their lowest in more than two decades – but campaigners say more work is needed to protect people from its health risks.
Levels are now at their lowest since records began in 1994, with the closure of many pubs and bars during the pandemic thought to have contributed.
But while the new figures have been welcomed, Public Health Scotland has warned many are still drinking more than the recommended levels.
In 2020 the average Scottish adult drank 18 units of alcohol each week – “substantially” above the recommended limit of 14.
Public health intelligence advisor Elizabeth Richardson said: “An average of 20 people per week die as a result of their alcohol consumption, and while this latest figure represents the lowest rate since 2012, again it is those in the most-deprived areas that are more likely to be hospitalised or die because of an alcohol-related harm.
“Like all harm caused by alcohol, this is preventable”.
Alcohol: What are the health risks?
Charity Alcohol Focus Scotland say drinking is linked with more than 60 different diseases and medical conditions.
It is also the third-leading risk factor for death and disability, behind smoking and high blood pressure.
While alcohol-related harm has been decreasing in recent years, the organisation is calling for further work to lower its impact even further.
Its chief executive Alison Douglas wrote: “Just because we don’t want to hear that something we enjoy carries health risks doesn’t alter the scientific evidence – there is no completely safe level of alcohol consumption.”
She said the damage which alcohol poses is often “under-estimated or under-played” because it is socially acceptable.
A 2015 research study found alcohol is linked with seven types of cancer – prompting around 12,000 cases every year.
Where can I get help?
NHS Inform has a list of national organisations which can offer advice, counselling and support to people concerned about their alcohol intake.
It has also created an interactive map highlighting the services available near you.