A once proud race seems to be blotting itself out of existence.
Scots death by drink rate shows fastest rise in Europe
by LOUISE GRAY
• Latest figures show death by cirrhosis of the liver rising fastest in Scotland
• Scottish men now twice as likely to die from liver cirrhosis than in 1991
• Increased affordability, binge drinking and increased accessibility blamed
"A long-term commitment to changing our drinking culture is needed to ensure fewer Scots have their lives cut short by alcohol misuse." - JACK LAW, ALCOHOL FOCUS SCOTLAND
Story in full SCOTS are drinking themselves to death at a faster rate than people anywhere else in western Europe, a study has found.
In the past decade the traditionally wine-drinking countries of continental Europe have slowed their consumption and seen a substantial fall in cirrhosis of the liver, one of the worst side-effects of excessive alcohol.
But in the same period death rates from the disease in Scotland have risen faster than anywhere else in the region to become one of the highest. Scottish men are now more than twice as likely to die from liver cirrhosis - alcoholic liver disease - as they were in 1991, while the number of women dying increased by almost half.
The latest figures for 2002 show three times as many Scots than English or Welsh people died from the disease.
Doctors and campaigners blamed the increased affordability of drink, binge drinking and increased accessibility. They warned that government moves to extend opening hours are likely to make the problem even worse.
The research compared World Health Organisation figures in 12 other European countries - Austria, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Denmark - over the past 50 years.
In the 1950s, England and Wales had the lowest rates of liver cirrhosis death in western Europe. For men, the figure was 3.4 per 100,000 per year and for women 2.2. Scotland had higher rates - 8.2 and 6.1 respectively - but its record was still comparatively low.
The research, published in the medical journal the Lancet, found that cirrhosis death rates throughout the UK accelerated sharply in the 1980s and 1990s.
By 2001, Scottish men and women had the third and second highest level in Europe respectively, with rates of 34.4 deaths per 100,000 per year for men and 16.1 for women.
This works out to about 1,700 men and 800 women dying every year. Only Austria was higher for women and Austria and Portugal for men.
Rates in England and Wales also shot up to 14.1 for men and 7.7 for women.
Dr Jim McCambridge, of King's College London, said that southern Europe had woken up to the dangers of drinking too much wine, but Britain had experienced an "epidemic" in chronic conditions due to the rise in drinking.
He blamed a fall in the cost of alcohol, which has halved in relative terms in the past 30 years, and easier accessibility.
Jack Law, of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: "A long-term commitment to changing our drinking culture is needed to ensure fewer Scots have their lives cut short by alcohol misuse."
Lewis Macdonald, the deputy health minister, said every individual had a responsibility to drink sensibly.
• Drink-drive offences rose in Scotland over the festive period, compared with last year, and the number driving under the influence of drugs nearly doubled.
"Yeah, it's great living here. You never have to grow up here. Everything is always someone else's fault." -piccolo's sister, on life in Massachusetts