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Alcohol in Scotland

Completed Project

Folder icon Jan 2012 - Dec 2014

With alcohol-related mortality in Scotland among the highest in Western Europe and the overall cost to Scotland of alcohol misuse estimated at £3.5 billion, alcohol use and harm is rightly recognised as a significant public health issue in this country. This has resulted in considerable policy response from national and local governments, and GCPH has aimed to contribute to the evidence base around how best to reduce alcohol-related harm in Scotland, through a number of research studies. 

Alcohol licensing: strengthening the community input 

In collaboration with Alcohol Focus Scotland and Iconic Consulting, we explored how the community input into the licensing process could be strengthened. The report from this work, 'Strengthening the community voice in alcohol licensing decisions in Glasgow'features a set of recommendations – both practical and innovative. A summary leaflet outlining what communities can do to have a greater say in the availability of alcohol in their area was also produced.

Alcohol harm 

We published a briefing paper in 2014 that explored alcohol-related harm in Glasgow over a 30-year period and related the alcohol-related harm experienced in the city to local factors as well as those operating at a national and international level. 
Our 2012 'Still the sick man of Europe?' report explored how Scottish mortality rates had changed over the previous 60 years in relation to its European neighbours. The report shows how liver cirrhosis rates in Scotland have been increasing in recent decades in contrast to the falling rates in other parts of Europe. 

In recent years, alcohol deaths have been falling in Scotland and Glasgow. However, by exploring alcohol mortality by birth cohort (those born in the same decade) an emerging trend of increasing alcohol deaths in the younger cohorts, particularly females, was identified.

Young people, gender and alcohol 

In 2012, we undertook work looking at young people, gender and alcohol. This explored young adults' relationship with alcohol, taking into account gendered differences and implications for reducing harm and consumption. The study consisted of two forms of qualitative data collection (interviews with practitioners and decision makers, and focus groups with young adults). Key findings are highlighted in the report 'Creating Better Stories: Alcohol and gender in transitions to adulthood' and a shorter briefing paper 'Findings Series 32: Young people, gender and alcohol'. 

During the focus groups (mentioned above) participants drew and created visual materials which provide a rich insight into young adults' alcohol use. To ensure these illustrations were not lost we showcased them in a book 'Alcohol: through our eyes. Young people's representations of drinking in Scotland'.

All resources available below.

Output icon Project outputs

Publications & Documents


resources icon Further resources & reading

The Understanding Glasgow website includes several indicators of alcohol use and harm in Glasgow and smaller areas within Glasgow.

Alcohol and healthy ageing: a challenge for alcohol policy. Nicholson D, McCormack F, Seaman P, et al. Public Health 2017;148:13-18

Explaining trends in alcohol-related harms in Scotland, 1991-2011 (I): the role of incomes, effects of socio-economic and political adversity and demographic change. McCartney G, Craig N, Craig P, et al. Public Health 2016;132:13-23. 

Explaining trends in alcohol-related harms in Scotland (II): policy, culture, the market, clinical changes and a synthesis. McCartney G, Craig N, Craig P, et al. Public Health 2016;132:24-32.

Regional alcohol consumption and alcohol-related mortality in Great Britain: novel insights using retail sales data. Robinson M, Shipton D, Walsh D, et al. BMC Public Health 2015;15:1. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-15-1

Alcohol-related deaths in Scotland: do country-specific factors affecting cohorts born in the 1940s and before help explain the current trends in alcohol-related trends? Shipton D, McCartney G, Whyte B, et al. European Journal of Public Health 2014. DOI:

The role of alcohol price in young adult drinking cultures in Scotland. Seaman P, Ikegwuonu T, Edgar F. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy. 2013 (doi:10.3109/09687637.2013.765386).

Alcohol-related mortality in deprived UK cities: worrying trends in young women challenge recent national downward trends. Shipton D, Whyte B, Walsh D. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 2013. DOI: 10.1136/jech-2013-202574 

'I don't think old people should go to clubs': how universal is the alcohol transition amongst young adults in the United Kingdom? Seaman P, Ikegwuonu T. Journal of Youth Studies Vol 14 No 7, 2011, 745-759

Epidemiology of hospitalization due to alcohol-related harm: evidence from a Scottish cohort study. Lawder R, Grant I, Storey C, et al.  Public Health 2011;125(8):533-539.

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Scottish mortality in a European context

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