New figures in a report issued today by NHS Health Scotland show the extent to which alcohol contributes to deaths and hospital admissions in Scotland. In 2015, alcohol contributed to 3,705 deaths and 41,161 people were admitted to hospital as a result of alcohol consumption. This data was further analysed to elicit the top five reasons for alcohol-attributable deaths: Cancer; liver disease and pancreatitis; heart conditions and strokes; pneumonia; and unintentional injuries. The top five reasons for hospital admissions due to alcohol were: unintentional injuries such as falls; mental ill health and behavioural disorders; heart conditions and strokes; liver disease and pancreatitis; and cancer.

Alcohol impacts in a wider sense on the children and families of the people behind these statistics; on communities, crime, economic performance and health inequalities in society. SHAAP has long been at the forefront of campaigning for policies to reduce and prevent alcohol harm from happening in the first place, and welcomes the implementation in May 2018 of minimum unit pricing for alcohol in Scotland. Cheaper prices drive consumption and increased consumption causes more alcohol harm, so this legislation, championed by the Scottish Government since 2012, is expected to be a significant and effective tool.

SHAAP Director, Dr Eric Carlin said:

“We welcome this work done by NHS Health Scotland which provides useful evidence for the unacceptable extent of harm that alcohol does in our country. We hope the Scottish Government’s new alcohol framework which is soon to be published will make full use of the many other tools in the policy box such as reducing or prohibiting alcohol marketing, in particular with reference to children and sport, and restricting licensed outlets in our communities. These are measures which are recognised as being effective by the World Health Organisation in reducing alcohol harms across society.

“Secondly, we welcome Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell’s intention to bring forward a combined alcohol and drugs treatment strategy in spring. This is needed to support those people already drinking at harmful and hazardous levels, to help them reduce their consumption and risk of hospitalisation or death due to the diseases and injuries listed in this report. Measures to support their families and communities and to reduce health inequalities in our most deprived areas must also be part of the package.”



1. Based at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) provides the authoritative medical and clinical voice on the need to reduce the impact of alcohol related harm on the health and wellbeing of people in Scotland and the evidence-based approaches to achieve this.

2. The report “Hospital admissions, deaths and overall burden of disease attributable to alcohol consumption in Scotland” is available at:

Eric Carlin

Contact: Dr Eric Carlin, Director SHAAP 0750 5081784