Statement on alcohol-specific death statistics

The number of deaths from alcohol-specific causes rose in Scotland in 2022 by 2%, according to figures published today by National Records of Scotland. In total 1,276 deaths were attributed to alcohol-specific causes last year, 31 more than in 2021 and the highest number since 2008. 

In response, Professor Andrew Elder, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said:

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh is deeply concerned by these new figures and our thoughts go out to the family and friends of each and every individual who has lost their life due to alcohol. Although today’s figures focus on deaths, the health harms of alcohol are much broader and witnessed by families, friends and clinicians each and every day in Scotland.

We continue to urge the Scottish Government to recognise that the increasing number of alcohol deaths is a public health emergency and needs to be treated as such, with additional new actions and investment across both recovery support and preventative policies.

MUP has an important role to play as part of this approach and the recent comprehensive analysis of its effectiveness demonstrated that it is helping to save lives. We support the level of MUP being uprated to at least 65p so that it can have an even greater and more positive effect on reducing Scotland’s alcohol harms.

We also urge the Scottish Government to work closely with the medical experts and clinicians, including those in SHAAP, who have so much knowledge in this field and who have a great to deal to offer as we seek to identify how we can better tackle and prevent alcohol misuse and help people with alcohol addictions recover.

Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, Chair of SHAAP, commented:

We are saddened to see that the number of people who lost their lives to alcohol once again increased in 2022. It is important to recognise that each of these 1,276 deaths represents a personal tragedy which could have been prevented.

Scotland is facing an ongoing crisis with alcohol which requires urgent attention. We simply cannot continue to accept this level of avoidable alcohol harm as the Scottish reality.

The Scottish Government must do more to ensure that this level of harm does not continue. It is essential that our Government addresses this public health emergency with the appropriate urgency and priority. 

It is vital that policies such as MUP remain in place to continue to reduce alcohol-related harms. The level at which MUP is set should be raised to at least 65p to maintain its benefit.

Alongside this, the Scottish Government must address the wider availability and marketing of alcohol, in order to tackle the inescapable exposure to alcohol experienced by children and other vulnerable groups, such as people in recovery. 

Increased funding and resources for alcohol services are also essential to support those with an existing alcohol problem.

All these measures in combination would see a much greater impact on the number of people dying as a result of alcohol in the years to come.