Page last updated at 12:06 GMT, Sunday, 22 February 2009

Scots rank high on drink levels

Adults over 16 drank the equivalent of 11.8 litres of pure alcohol

Scotland has the eighth-highest level of alcohol consumption in the world, according to statistics analysed for the Scottish Government.

Drinkers consumed almost 50 million litres of pure alcohol in 2007.

People aged over 16 sank the equivalent of 11.8 litres of pure alcohol per person. The figure for England and Wales was 9.9 litres.

Health Minister Shona Robison said the amounts consumed were linked to the availability of cheap alcohol.

Earlier this month, BBC Scotland learned alcohol-related cases had overtaken heart disease as a reason for hospital admissions.

The sad knock-on of all this has been a huge rise in all types of alcohol-related illnesses and deaths
Shona Robison
Health Minister

Figures, compiled especially for the BBC, suggested alcohol was now one of the leading causes of admission to hospital.

For the Scottish Government study, analysts at the Neilsen Company looked at sales of alcohol.

The Scottish Government said the figure of 11.8 litres equalled 570 pints of 4% strength beer, nearly 500 pints of 5% lager, 42 bottles of vodka or 125 bottles of wine for each adult during the course of a year.

It added that this was enough for every single adult to exceed the sensible drinking guidelines for men of 21 units every week of the year.

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Compared with the latest figures compiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Scottish Government said this would place Scotland as having the eighth highest pure alcohol consumption level.

This put the country behind Luxembourg (15.6 litres per capita), Ireland (13.7 litres), Hungary (13.6 litres), Moldova (13.2 litres), Czech Republic (13.0 litres), Croatia (12.3 litres) and Germany (12.0 litres).

But it put Scotland ahead of Russia - where alcohol-related deaths have cut the average life expectancy for men to 59 - and also the US and China.

Luxembourg - which tops the WHO league - has a pure alcohol consumption level of 15.6 litres per capita
Russia's consumption is 10.3 litres, while the US 8.6 litres

Figures from the Office of National Statistics indicate that alcohol is nearly 70% more affordable now than in 1980, because although the price of alcohol has risen faster than retail prices generally, household income has risen much more quickly.

Ms Robison said Scotland was worryingly close to the top of the international league table.

She said: "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.

"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."

Ms Robison added: "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."

The research coincided with the publication of a study that found almost 1,500 Scots were dying every year because of drink.

Experts from Glasgow University and the Medical Research Council (MRC) found that on average 999 men in Scotland and 448 women die from alcohol-related causes every year.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said reducing the drink driving limit would reduce accidents on Scotland's roads.

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