Today, Public Health Scotland (PHS) and The Lancet publish new evidence showing the impact of alcohol minimum unit pricing (MUP) on deaths and hospital admissions attributable to alcohol consumption. Carried out in collaboration with the University of Glasgow, the study evaluated the impact of MUP on alcohol health harms, over the first two-and-half years of the policy.

The study estimated a 13.4% reduction in deaths, and a 4.1% reduction in hospital admissions, wholly attributable to alcohol consumption following the implementation of MUP. The study also found that MUP reduced deaths and hospital admissions where alcohol consumption may be one of a range of causative factors. The findings cover the period from MUP implementation up to the end of 2020.

This latest report builds on previous work that estimated alcohol sales reduced by 3% in the three years following the implementation of MUP.

Dr Grant Wyper, Public Health Intelligence Adviser at PHS, said:

“Our study estimates that, following more than two and a half years of implementation, around 150 deaths, and around 400 hospital admissions, wholly attributable to alcohol consumption, were averted each year due to MUP. The greatest reductions were seen for chronic alcohol health harms, in particular alcoholic liver disease, which were slightly offset with less certain evidence of increases in acute alcohol health harms. The findings highlight that the largest reductions were found for males, and for those living in the 40% most deprived areas, groups which are known to experience disproportionally high levels of alcohol health harms in Scotland.

“We know that those living in the most socioeconomically deprived areas in Scotland experience alcohol-specific death rates more than five times higher compared to those living in the least deprived areas. The results published today are therefore very encouraging in addressing this inequality, and the overall scale of preventable harm which affects far too many people.”

Prof Daniel Mackay, Professor of Public Health Informatics at the School of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, said:

“The methods we’ve used in this study allow us to be confident that the reduction in alcohol health harms we’ve shown is due to the introduction of MUP, rather than some other factor. This was important as the COVID-19 pandemic occurred towards the end of our study period and may have had an impact on alcohol-related health harms that was unrelated to MUP. Our main findings for the whole study period were consistent with findings from an additional analysis that focused on the pre-pandemic period only.

“In fact, we tested our main finding across a range of different scenarios and found the results to be largely consistent with our main finding, strengthening our conclusion that MUP has been effective at reducing the harm to health caused by alcohol.”

Prof Jim Lewsey, Professor of Medical Statistics also at the School of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, added:

“Our approach compared what happened to alcohol health harms in Scotland with its neighbouring country, England, where MUP was not introduced. The methods we have used and the consistency of our findings with what was anticipated before MUP was introduced, allow us to be confident that the reduction in alcohol health harms is because of the MUP intervention.”

The MUP Evaluation Portfolio comprises of a number of research studies that are being undertaken to assess the impact of MUP across a range of outcomes, all of which have now been concluded. A report bringing together all the evaluation findings will be published in June 2023.

Read the report here.

Last updated: 22 March 2023