Public Health Scotland today published the MESAS Monitoring Report 2020, as part of the continued delivery of the crucial Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS) programme. This annual report provides the latest available information and key statistics on alcohol consumption, price and related harms.

In 2019 alcohol consumption in Scotland – estimated from the total volume of alcohol sales – remained at its lowest level since 1994. 9.9 litres of pure alcohol was sold per adult, equivalent to an average of 19 units per adult per week. The volume of pure alcohol sold in Scotland was 9% higher than in England and Wales, and this represents the smallest difference since 2002, for the second consecutive year.

The average price of alcohol sold in Scottish supermarkets and off-licences rose to 62 pence per unit (ppu) in 2019, up from 59ppu in 2018. In England and Wales the average price of off-trade alcohol rose from 56ppu to 57ppu over the same timeframe.

Alcohol continues to be a leading cause of illness and early death in Scotland, and significant inequalities persist in both alcohol consumption and the harm it causes. For those that exceed the low risk weekly drinking guideline, mean weekly consumption is highest amongst those in the lowest income group. In 2018, 1,136 people in Scotland died due to a cause wholly attributable to alcohol, with rates of alcohol-specific death substantially higher in the most deprived areas of Scotland, compared to the least deprived.

Lucie Giles, Public Health Intelligence Principal at Public Health Scotland, said:

“Population level alcohol consumption in Scotland has remained at the level the MESAS programme reported last year. Based on alcohol sales, average alcohol consumption in 2019 is estimated at 9.9 litres of pure alcohol per adult in Scotland. This is the lowest we have seen in the available data and maintains the smallest difference between Scotland and England & Wales since the early 2000s.

“Despite these encouraging trends, the most recent survey data shows that nearly a quarter of adults exceeded the revised low-risk weekly drinking guidelines, and that drinkers in the lowest income group are likely to consume more. An average of 22 people per week are still dying as a result of their alcohol consumption and again this is not spread evenly throughout the population: those in the most deprived areas are more likely to be hospitalised or die because of an alcohol-related cause. Like all harm caused by alcohol, this is preventable.

“Public Health Scotland will continue to monitor and evaluate Scotland’s alcohol strategy, so we can continue to gauge progress and understand what works to reduce the harm alcohol causes”.

Read the MESAS Monitoring Report 2020

Last updated: 06 October 2022