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Fall in alcohol-related deaths as downturn hits drink sales

THE reduction in the number of alcohol-related deaths in Scotland may be linked to the economic downturn rather than drinks policy, says a new NHS report.

The study revealed the biggest decrease in deaths linked to alcohol were in areas of deprivation, but the report's authors warned that as the economy recovers, the drop may not be sustained as alcohol becomes affordable once more.

Neil Craig, one of the report's authors and public health adviser at NHS Health Scotland, said the study had found more evidence of the link between the affordability of alcohol and harmful drinking.

"The most deprived groups in Scotland experienced the biggest falls in deaths from alcohol and these falls began before the economic downturn," he said.

"Our findings suggest this may be because these groups experienced falls in income that started before the recession in 2007.

"If so, as the economy picks up, recent reductions in sales and harms might not be sustained, especially if affordability starts to rise again after the recession."

Some 60% of all alcohol sold in Scottish supermarkets, shops and off-licences in 2012 was found to cost less than 50p per unit; the rate suggested by the Scottish Government in their minimum alcohol pricing proposals.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said the Government was committed to introducing minimum unit pricing. He added: "We must tackle the toll that Scotland's unhealthy relationship with alcohol is taking. Alcohol misuse causes more than 20 deaths and 700 hospital admissions per week.

"As this report shows, affordability remains a core issue. We will move forward to implement this legislation as soon as we can to save lives."

Despite the decrease in mortality rates relating to alcohol in Scotland, the number still remains higher than the rest of the UK.

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