Rates of alcohol-related disease and death have traditionally been higher in Scotland than the rest of the UK, but this year’s Scottish Health Survey suggests Scots are drinking less than they used to.
Since 2003 the average number of units drunk per week has steadily declined, as has the likelihood of exceeding recommended weekly guidelines. On top of this the proportion of us drinking more than five days a week has dropped by 5%. Moreover while overall alcohol sales are said to have increased by 10% from 1994 to 2011, a recent Health Scotland report shows a decrease of 4% in per adult retail sales between 2010 and 2011.
There may be a number of explanations for this, including the effects of the downturn. In addition, the Scottish government has introduced a number of measures to tackle problem levels of drinking. Changes to sales regulation such as a ban on special offers like 3 for 2 in shops and irresponsible promotions in pubs, clubs and bars, as well as the introduction of Challenge 25 to target younger and underage drinkers may all have contributed to the year on year trend.
But change is not universal and some remain unaffected by anti-drinking legislation. Although hazardous levels of drinking are most common in better off areas, men in more deprived areas provide the most extreme examples of dangerous drinking, consuming 61.6 units per week - well above the recommended 21 units.
With minimum pricing ready to be introduced – a policy which is expected to impact most on those exceeding their recommended limits- monitoring alcohol consumption in the general population is as important as ever.