BOASTING 16 world-class distilleries and welcoming tens of thousands of visitors from across the globe ever year, drinking habits in Moray could be expected to be on the higher side.

But a recent survey carried out by a health service provider has revealed that the ancestral home of Scotland’s whisky industry is one of the areas in Scotland where people are consuming the least units of alcohol per week on average.

Babylon Health surveyed 38,806 people from their Healthcheck app on their drinking habits which revealed that drinkers in middle class enclave East Dunbartonshire were at the top, consuming 8.2 units, followed by Perth and Kinross at 7.1 units and East Lothian 6.5 units.

It is the wealthiest middle class drinkers who are most likely to consume alcohol in potentially harmful or hazardous quantities, research from the Scottish Health Survey revealed last year.

One in four was found to exceed the recommended 14 unit limit every week, compared to 18% in the poorest communities.

Middle class women in particular were found to drink far more regularly than those in more deprived areas.

According to research carried out in 2017, female drinkers in wealthier areas were found to have higher weekly consumption levels (9.7 units) than women in the poorer areas (7.5 units).

But the survey also showed that among those who drink above the recommended maximum of 14 units per week, people in the most deprived areas tend to drink more than those in more affluent parts.

Drinking more than three units a day, the equivalent of a large glass of red wine, can increase women’s risk of breast cancer by 20 per cent.

Men who drink more than four units a day are almost twice as likely to develop high blood pressure.

Higher-income drinkers are often overlooked when it comes to Scotland’s alcohol crisis due to heavy drinking in deprived areas.

The findings from Moray tied with those of Midlothian, North Ayrshire, Highland and Angus all at an average of 3.4 units per week - the lowest consumption in the areas surveyed.

Out of the 24 areas of Scotland considered, East Lothian, Stirling and the Scottish Borders came joint first in frequency, with an average of 2.8 sessions per week. East Dunbartonshire ranked last with an average of 1.1 sessions per week.

The findings come after analysis of the introduction of minimum unit pricing in 2018 showed the amount of alcohol bought in shops in Scotland has fallen.

Analysis carried out by NHS Health Scotland of off-licence sales over the year after the 50p per unit lower limit came in in May 2018 shows a 3.6% drop in the volume of pure alcohol being sold per adult in Scotland, from 7.4 to 7.1 litres.

This is equivalent to a reduction of 26 units each annually – around 12 pints of average strength beer. However, despite the reduction, the sales equate to every adult in Scotland drinking around 27 bottles of vodka a year.

The amount of alcohol bought at off-licences in England and Wales increased over the same period, up 6.3% to 6.5%, but remained lower than Scottish sales.

In an earlier NHS Health Scotland survey it was found that minimum pricing has had no effect on alcohol consumption among teenagers in Scotland.

The study asked 50 adolescents aged 13 to 17 who were known to have been drinking before the legislation came in about their current habits.

It found money and price changes were not perceived as barriers to drinking by young people.

Overall the teenagers did not report changing what they drank, how much they drank or how they obtained their alcohol, in response to price alone.

In December last year it was reported that the rate of deaths due to alcohol misuse in Scotland rose slightly and remained the highest in Britain.

There were 20.8 “alcohol-specific” deaths per 100,000 people north of the border, above Wales and England where there were 13.1 and 10.7 deaths respectively.

Alcohol-specific deaths are defined as those resulting from health conditions that are a direct consequence of alcohol misuse, such as alcoholic liver disease.

There were 1,136 deaths registered in Scotland in 2018 related to alcohol specific causes - 762 male and 374 female, a slight overall increase from 2017 when there were 1,120 deaths - 789 male and 331 female - at a rate of 20.5 per 100,000 people.