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Scots recognising harmful impact of alcohol

11 June 2014

An increasing number of people recognise the harm which alcohol causes in Scotland, new results from the Scottish Social Attitudes (SSA) survey reveal. In 2013, 60% of Scots thought alcohol was the drug causing most problems in Scotland, an increase from 46% in 2004.

An increasing number of people recognise the harm which alcohol causes in Scotland, new results from the Scottish Social Attitudes (SSA) survey reveal. In 2013, 60% of Scots thought alcohol was the drug causing most problems in Scotland, an increase from 46% in 2004. 

Whilst attitudes to getting drunk have remained largely unchanged since 2004, there has been a drop in the proportion of people aged 18 to 29 agreeing that getting drunk at weekends is acceptable, from 53% in 2004 to 40% in 2013.

The survey, commissioned by NHS Health Scotland and conducted by ScotCen Social Research, has tracked changes in attitudes to drinking alcohol since 2004.   For the first time it provides a baseline of public attitudes to minimum unit pricing and reveals views on minimum unit pricing are divided, with slightly more in support of the policy than against it. 

Key results from questions newly introduced in SSA 2013 reveal:

  • Views on minimum unit pricing were divided, with 41% in favour, 35% against and 22% neither for nor against the idea.
  • 84% of Scots think alcohol either causes ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of harm in Scotland’
  • Alcohol is still viewed as a social lubricant and there was a small increase in the proportion of people who think ‘it is easier to enjoy a social event if you’ve had a drink’ (from 35% in 2004 to 39% in 2013).

Dr Garth Reid, Public Health Adviser at NHS Health Scotland said:  “On the one hand there seems to be a positive shift in attitudes towards alcohol, especially amongst young people; on the other alcohol is still viewed as an important part of socialising.

“Views on minimum unit pricing are divided with slightly more in favour than against the policy.  Messages about the likely impact of it however need to be clearer. Recent evidence suggests that the impact on those who drink moderately or responsibly is expected to be minimal, whereas those who are heavy drinkers of cheap and high strength alcohol will be affected the most.”

Lisa Rutherford, Research Director at ScotCen Social Research added:“It's encouraging that there's a growing recognition of the problems alcohol creates in Scotland.  More people are aware of how potentially harmful alcohol can be and few view excessive drinking as acceptable. However, some in society still hold permissive views towards alcohol and getting 'drunk'. Given the relatively minor shift in views since 2004, fostering a more positive approach to drinking in Scotland is likely to be an ongoing challenge.”

Read the full report: Attitudes towards alcohol in Scotland: results from the 2013 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 

ENDS

Notes to editors:

  1. NHS Health Scotland is a Special Health Board with the responsibility to reduce health inequalities and improve health.  

 

Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS) 

The Scottish Government has tasked NHS Health Scotland with the responsibility of evaluating Scotland’s alcohol strategy (including Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP), which is currently subject to legal challenge) through the Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS) programme of work.  The Social Attitudes Survey is part of the wider MESAS portfolio. The survey was carried out by ScotCen Social Research. 

The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Scotland Act was passed into law in June 2012 allowing for a minimum price to be set for a unit of alcohol, below which it cannot be sold.

SSA provides a picture of changing public opinion over time.   Interviews with a representative sample of 1,497 members of the Scottish population were conducted between June and October 2013.   The questions on alcohol were funded by the Scottish Government and were managed by NHS Health Scotland.

Research by the University of Sheffield estimated that the proposed minimum price of 50p per unit would result in the following benefits:

  • Alcohol related deaths would fall by about 60 in the first year and 318 by year ten of the policy
  • A fall in hospital admission in 1,600 in year 1, and 6,500 per year ten of the policy
  • A fall in crime volumes by around 3,500 offences per year
  • A financial saving from harm  reduction (health, employment, crime etc.) of £942m over 10 years.

Research from Canada found that:

  • A 10% increase in minimum prices significantly associated with a 8.43% reduction in alcohol consumption in Saskatchewan, Canada (Stockwell, 2012)
  • A 10% increase in average minimum price alcohol was associated with a 31.72% reduction in alcohol related deaths (Zhao, 2013)