Alcohol related deaths are the highest in Scotland

Spirits behind a bar
Image caption Central Scotland buys more spirits than the north of England

People in central Scotland are more likely to die from alcohol-related causes than those in comparable parts of northern England, an NHS study said.

It said sales of alcohol per person were 13% higher in the region than in north-east England and deaths were 67% higher.

Compared with north-west England, sales in central Scotland were 12% higher and deaths were 47% higher.

The research is based on data for 2010 and 2011.

The study from NHS Health Scotland and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health said deaths related to alcohol were 80% higher in Scotland than the rest of Britain.

But they said comparisons at country level could mask important regional variations.

Previous data from self-report surveys generally showed similar levels and patterns of alcohol consumption.

Sales data

Researchers said it was the first time that alcohol sales data had been used to estimate consumption for regions within Britain.

The report considers that central Scotland takes in much of the central belt, Ayrshire, west and central Fife, Argyll and parts of the south-west Highlands.

According to researchers, it had the highest number of alcohol-related deaths, 14% above the Scottish average.

The North East and the North West of England showed the highest level of consumption and highest related death rates in England and Wales.

The study noted the difference in the types of drinks sold in each region. Central Scotland consumed "substantially higher" levels of spirits whereas northern England had the highest beer sales.

Alcohol consumption

Mark Robinson, public health information manager at NHS Health Scotland, led the study.

He said: "The regions selected in this study were chosen on the basis that they had high alcohol-related death rates compared with the rest of Great Britain."

He added that this study supported "the well-established link between population alcohol consumption and alcohol-related mortality".

Dr Deborah Shipton, the co-author of the report, said: "Until now we have had to rely on self-report surveys to compare consumption levels in Scotland with those in northern England. These have generally shown little difference between areas."

Dr Shipton, public health research specialist at the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, added: "The sales data used in this study are considered the gold standard and will be essential for evaluating the impact of different alcohol policy approaches north and south of the border."

The study was part of the Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland's Alcohol Strategy workstream, which is funded by the Scottish government and the research is based on data for 2010 and 2011.