National Records of Scotland

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Alcohol-related Deaths (old National Statistics definition)

Alcohol-related Deaths (old National Statistics definition)

Main points

In 2017, there were 1,235 alcohol-related deaths, on the basis of the old National Statistics definition (details available via Alcohol Related Deaths (old National Statistics definition) - the Coverage of the Statistics section); a reduction of 30 (2%) compared with 2016. However, despite that fall, 2017 had the third highest annual total since 2010, following a 10% increase in numbers in 2016.

The number of alcohol-related deaths was relatively stable, at roughly 600 per year, during the 1980s. Thereafter, the general trend seems to have been rapid increases during the 1990s and early 2000s, to around 1,500 per year in the mid-2000s. The figure of 1,546 in 2006 was the largest so far recorded: since then, the general trend had appeared to be downward, reaching a recent low of 1,080 in 2012. However, rises in three of the past five years (including the large increase in 2016) and a rise in the 5-year moving average (Chart 1) may suggest that the direction of the general trend has changed in recent years.

These figures may fluctuate from year to year. Chart 1 shows the number for each year, together with the 5-year moving annual average (as an indication of any overall trend) and the likely range of statistical variability around it (which is explained in the Background page). It will be seen that almost all the year-to-year fluctuations over the period since 1979 have been within what would be expected to be the likely range of statistical variability around the general trend described earlier.

Table 1 shows that the 1,235 alcohol-related deaths in 2017 consisted of 854 male deaths and 381 female deaths. Over the years since 1979, there have been roughly twice as many male deaths as female deaths, with the two figures tending to rise and fall together (although there have been some exceptions, as the ratio has been as low as 1.4:1 and as high as 2.4:1).

In 2017, there were 120 alcohol-related deaths of people in the 30-44 age-group, 16 fewer than in 2016 and the lowest figure since 1993 (when there were 97 alcohol-related deaths of 30-44 year olds).  The number of deaths of people aged 45-59 was 494, 9 fewer than in 2016, ending a run of four consecutive increases. However, there was a rise of 14 in deaths of 60-74 year olds, to 482: a fourth consecutive increase, and the highest figure for that age-group since 2006. The 129 deaths of people aged 75 and over was 18 fewer than in 2016, but was still the second highest number ever recorded for that age-group. There were 10 deaths aged under 30, one fewer than in 2016 (deaths in this age group have fluctuated between 9 and 19 over the last decade).  The table shows that the 45-59 age-group has had the largest number of alcohol-related deaths in almost every year since 1979.

The final three columns of the table (which were added when the figures for 2017 were published) show the average age at death for alcohol-related deaths: in 2017, this was 59.9 years, and was slightly higher for males (60.2) than for females (59.2).  It has not changed much over the period since 1979: while there have been year to year fluctuations, it has remained between 55 and 60 years (the lowest value in the period was 55.6 and the highest 59.9), although there is a slight suggestion of an increase recently, as the four largest values are in the four latest years (2014: 58.5; 2015: 58.7; 2016: 59.7; 2017: 59.9).  

Tables 2 and 3 give figures for each NHS Board area and council. As the figures can fluctuate markedly from year to year, 3-and 5-year averages are shown for NHS Boards and 5-year averages are shown for councils. This should indicate better any overall trend.

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