OVERALL, the latest statistics on Scotland’s health paint a predictable picture. It has long been the case, of course, that those living in the most deprived areas have poorer health, are more likely to smoke and less likely to do regular exercise than their wealthier counterparts.

Obesity levels remain stable, but that’s nothing to be proud of when the reality is that around two thirds of adults are overweight – including almost 30 per cent who are obese – and a third of children. Meanwhile, only 20 per cent of us are meeting the five-a-day fruit and vegetable target, and, worryingly, fewer of us are eating any at all than in 2003.

Drill down in the Scottish Health Survey data, however, and you will find more nuanced narratives, not least when it comes to alcohol consumption among women. On average, female drinkers in the wealthiest areas drink more than those in the poorest – 9.7 units a week compared to 7.5.

Although it should be pointed out that neither group reached, on average, the recommended weekly maximum of 14 units, it does highlight an issue that has been concerning public health officials and for some time, namely the growing numbers of professional women drinking more.

Indeed, a report in 2015 by the respected Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that educated women in the UK were top of the table for alcohol abuse in Western countries. According to the study, peer pressure was often responsible for heavier drinking habits, as women tried to keep up with male colleagues (many of whom also drank too much). Add to this wider changes in drinking culture that in the last 15 years has seen a concerted move from pub to home, and you can see how problems can start. The fact that the term “wine o’ clock” is part of everyday parlance for both sexes perhaps speaks volumes.

One of the other interesting aspects of the data on alcohol was that it suggested older people are drinking more than their younger counterparts, which is perhaps related to the fact that the Baby Boomers are considerably wealthier than younger generations. Are the over-55s, with their property wealth and more generous pensions, simply able to spend more disposable income on socialising, one wonders, or does this maybe point to a more worrying increase in loneliness among older folk? More research is needed.

Following on from this, meanwhile, came the statistic suggesting being teetotal could also be related to wealth. Overall, 26 per cent of adults in deprived areas don’t drink at all, while only one in 10 people in the wealthiest areas are teetotal.

We should remember, of course, that a majority of people from all income brackets drink responsibly, and that those who do develop problems come from every background. But drinking patterns among all classes and age groups deserve attention in Scotland, precisely because our relationship with alcohol remains problematic for so many.