Study finds fewer alcohol deaths in Scotland after introduction of minimum unit pricing

(Photo: Unsplash/Chris Montgomery)

The introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP) on alcohol in Scotland has saved lives, according to new research published in The Lancet medical journal. 

Scientists from the University of Glasgow, the University of Queensland and Public Health Scotland have found "significant reductions in alcohol-specific deaths" since the measure was introduced in May 2018. 

The researchers used data from England to estimate the number of deaths that would have occurred if MUP had not been introduced.

They found that a 13 per cent decease in alcohol-related deaths between May 2018 and December 2020. This amounted to around 150 fewer deaths.

The researchers also found a 4.1 per cent drop in the number of people being hospitalised solely for alcohol consumption. 

The fall in deaths and hospitalisations was most stark "among those from the most socio-economically deprived areas in Scotland". 

Dr Grant Wyper, public health intelligence adviser at PHS, said: "The greatest reductions were seen for chronic alcohol health harms, in particular alcoholic liver disease, which were slightly offset with less certain evidence of increases in acute alcohol health harms.

"The findings highlight that the largest reductions were found for males, and for those living in the 40 per cent most deprived areas, groups which are known to experience disproportionally high levels of alcohol health harms in Scotland.

"We know that those living in the most socio-economically deprived areas in Scotland experience alcohol-specific death rates more than five times higher compared to those living in the least deprived areas. The results published today are therefore very encouraging in addressing this inequality, and the overall scale of preventable harm which affects far too many people."

Welcoming the findings, Scotland's Public Health Minister Maree Todd said the study "further underlines the value of our world-leading minimum unit pricing policy which has helped reduce alcohol sales to their lowest on record".

She added: "We're determined to do all we can to reduce alcohol-related harm which is one of the most pressing public health challenges that we face in Scotland."