National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Alcohol-related Deaths

Alcohol-related Deaths

Main points

  • In 2016, there were 1,265 alcohol-related deaths, on the basis of the current definition (details available via Alcohol Related Deaths - the Coverage of the Statistics section); an increase of 115 (10%) compared with 2015. This is the highest annual total since 2010, and the third largest annual increase in numbers: there were increases of 151 (18%) in 1996 and 122 (11%) in 1999. The only other years with percentage increases of 10 or more compared to the previous year were 1988 (10%), 1994 (17%) and 1995 (12%).
  • 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 paper - PDF 21 Kb). 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.
  • The number of alcohol-related deaths was relatively stable, at roughly 600 per year, during the 1980s. It then increased rapidly 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 trend had appeared to be generally downward, reaching a recent low of 1,080 in 2012. However, increases in three of the past four years, a larger increase in 2016 and an increase in the 5-year moving average (Chart 1) may suggest a change in the direction of the trend.
  • Table 1 shows that the 1,265 alcohol-related deaths in 2016 consisted of 867 male deaths and 398 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 2016, there were 136 alcohol-related deaths of people in the 30-44 age-group, 6 more than in 2015 but still the second lowest figure since 1995 (when there were 121 alcohol-related deaths of 30-44 year olds).  The number of deaths of people aged 45-59 was 503, 12 more than in 2015 and the fourth consecutive increase. There was an increase of 56 in deaths of 60-74 year olds, to 468: a third consecutive increase, and the highest for that age-group since 2006. The 147 deaths of people aged 75 and over was 39 more than in 2015, and was the highest number ever recorded for that age-group. There were 11 deaths aged under 30, two more than in 2015, and the same as in 2014. 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.
  • 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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