Scotsman (Scotland) – Time for a sober look at alcohol

  • Post category:World News

We need to bust the myths about Scotland and booze before we can tackle our binge-drinking culture, says Professor Geoff Palmer

There have been so many alcohol-related headlines in Scotland recently that it is worrying to think we may be growing indifferent to shocking despatches such as “Scotland tops UK alcohol league”, “Scots drink a quarter more alcohol than other Brits” and “Scotland’s shame: 100 extra pints per person”.

I believe that all relevant means should be used to control our alcohol problems, which cause damage estimated at  £2-4 billion a year in terms of health care, crime, premature death, absenteeism and unemployment.

The debate over what we should do – including the Scottish Government’s proposals for imposing a minimum price on alcohol – has become dogged by confusion and political point-scoring.

It is essential to separate myth from reality – by looking at the evidence available – before we can be confident the action we take is likely to be effective.

For starters, many people may be surprised to learn that Scotland is not the “champion drinker” of alcohol in Europe.

If we examine consumption of alcoholic drink worldwide in terms of pure alcohol, annual consumption per person in litres for a few selected countries reads as follows: Scotland (11.8); England and Wales (9.9); Luxembourg (15.7); Ireland (13.7); Hungary (13.6); Moldova (13.2); Czech Republic (13.0); Cyprus (13.0); Croatia (12.3) and Germany (12.0). Countries such as France, Denmark, Spain and Portugal have alcohol consumption figures which are close to those of the UK.

The fact is, we don’t drink more alcohol than most of our European neighbours.

The puzzle is that our levels of alcohol-related health problems, mortality rates and crime are significantly higher than in countries that drink as much or more than us.

What the evidence suggests is that other factors, such as poverty, which are then made worse by alcohol, may be contributing to our poor health.

Comparative studies of Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester have shown that alcohol-related problems in Glasgow were much worse than in the other cities, which have similar drinking patterns. Studies in Denmark show poor diet combined with alcohol could complement each other in the development of poor health.

It is sobering to think that in Scotland our alcoholic drinks industry is as successful as our sugary soft drink industry and our fatty pie industry.


Source:   Scotsman (Scotland), 23/08/2010