Scotland has been ranked No. 8 in the world in terms of alcohol consumption, according to statistics analyzed for the government.
In 2007, Scots consumed nearly 50 million liters of pure alcohol, with those over 16 consuming the equivalent of 11.8 liters per person. By comparison, the figure for England and Wales was 9.9 liters.
Shona Robison, Scotland’s Health Minister, said the nation’s high rate of consumption was linked to the availability of low-cost alcohol.
“The sad knock-on of all this has been a huge rise in all types of alcohol-related illnesses and deaths, with Scotland’s liver cirrhosis rate one of the fastest-growing worldwide and double that of England and Wales,” Robinson told BBC News.
Indeed, alcohol is now one of the leading cause of hospital admissions, surpassing heart disease, according to a BBC News report.
For the Scottish Government study, analysts with the Neilsen Company analyzed alcohol sales throughout the country.
The Scottish Government said 11.8 liters was equivalent to 125 bottles of wine, 570 pints of 4% strength beer, 500 pints of 5% lager or 42 bottles of vodka per year or for each adult –enough for every adult to exceed alcohol consumption guidelines of 21 units per week.
The analysis shows that Scotland has the eighth highest pure alcohol consumption levels anywhere in the world, the government said after comparing the study’s results with the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO).
Nations with higher levels of alcohol consumption include Luxembourg (15.6 liters per capita), Ireland (13.7 liters), Hungary (13.6 liters),
Moldova (13.2 liters), Czech Republic (13.0 liters), Croatia (12.3 liters) and Germany (12.0 liters).
Scotland was also ranked ahead of Russia, where alcohol-related deaths have reduced the average life expectancy for men to 59.
Luxembourg, which was rated the top alcohol-consuming nation by the WHO, consumes 15.6 liters of pure alcohol per capita, while Russia consumes 10.3 liters and the U.S. 8.6 liters.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics indicate that alcohol is nearly 70% more affordable in Scotland today than it was in 1980. While the price of alcohol has increased faster than retail prices, household income has risen much more rapidly.
Ms. Robison said Scotland was disturbingly close to the top of the international league table.
“Sales data from the alcohol industry itself indicates that we’re buying and drinking much more than people in the other UK countries and most of the rest of the world,” she told BBC News.
“There can be little doubt that this is largely a consequence of the big fall in alcohol’s relative price, which has dropped 70% since 1980.”
The research coincided with a separate study by experts from Glasgow University and the Medical Research Council (MRC), which found that nearly 1,500 Scots were dying each year due to alcohol-related causes.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill told BBC News that reducing the drink driving limit would also lessen the number of accidents on Scotland’s roads.
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