Deaths caused by alcohol consumption climbed by 17% last year to the highest level reported in a decade in Scotland, official figures show. The National Records of Scotland statistics showed that there were 1,190 alcohol-specific deaths, which were 170 higher than the previous year.

To bring things into persepctive, this number is the highest recorded since 2008.

The NRS report shows mortality rates only caused by alcohol consumption. In Scotland, alcoholic liver disease and mental and behavioural disorders are also major causes of death since 2000.

The report said that people who died were mostly in their 50s and 60s. While the average age for men was at 59.9, it was 57.4 for women.

Public Health Minister Maree Todd said lockdown led to the heavy consumption of the alcohol.

“Although alcohol consumption in Scotland dropped in 2020, evidence from various surveys has shown those who were drinking heavily before the pandemic were more likely to increase their drinking during lockdown, thereby increasing their risk of harm,” BCC quoted her as syaing.

As per the report, alcohol-specific deaths increased between 2012 and 2018 before falling by 10% in 2019.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said the numbers are devastating.

She added: “It is a stark reminder that we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball where alcohol harm is concerned.”

“Many people, particularly heavier drinkers, have reported that they have increased their drinking during the last 18 months,” she said.

Since the COVID-induced lockdown that began in March last year, helpline numbers have been inundated, an official of Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol said.

“A common theme has been how impossible it is to reach alcohol treatment and support when you need it, with phones ringing out, messages not returned, and few options offered when you do actually reach help,” she said.

The other NRS stats are:

-The 5-year average rate of deaths due to alcohol for Scotland was 20.5 deaths per 100,000 population.

-Four health boards – Greater Glasgow, Clyde, Lanarkshire, Western Isles and Highland – recorded death rates higher than the average

-The worst affected areas were Inverclyde, Glasgow City and North Lanarkshire.

-Shetland, Aberdeenshire and Scottish Borders recorded the lowest death rates.

-In most deprived areas of Scotland, the death rate was 41 per 100,000.

-The increase in death rates was driven by male deaths.