Wednesday 25 November 2020

Alcohol-related deaths fall in Scotland

Last week, I reported that Scotland's alcohol-related hospital admissions rose in 2018 and barely moved in 2019. This is noteworthy because minimum pricing was introduced in May 2018 and was supposed to reduce them. 

Yesterday, the National Records of Scotland published the alcohol-related mortality statistics for 2019 and it's better news for minimum pricing advocates. After rising in 2018, the number of deaths fell in 2019, from 1,136 to 1,020. Naturally, the Scottish Government and its pressure groups are chalking this up as a win, and 2019 has been hastily redefined as 'the first year of minimum pricing'
The decline represents a 9% fall since 2017 or a 10% fall since 2018, depending on how you look at it. This is by no means unprecedented. Numbers fell by 10% in 2006-07 and in 2008-09, and by 15% in 2011-12. Nevertheless, it at least consistent with the view that minimum pricing reduces alcohol-related mortality. If the numbers had risen again, it would have been difficult for the temperance lobby to claim success.

Pete Whitehouse, director of Statistical Services says...
"...although an annual decrease of this magnitude is notable, further data will be required to see if this reduction continues and whether we will see a sustained shift in alcohol-specific deaths in Scotland.”

The Sheffield model predicts that alcohol-related deaths will keep falling and Peter Rice, chair of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, is quite sure that there will. He says "we would expect even bigger decreases in years two and three."
We'll see about that. We'll also see what happened in England in 2019 when the figures for the rest of Britain are published next month. When I got hold of the monthly figures for 2018, I found that there was a 7% decline in alcohol-related deaths in Scotland between May and December. On the face of it, it looked like minimum pricing was having an impact, but it turned out that England and Wales also saw a 7% decline in the same period.   

Watch this space.

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