Are some Falkirk residents spending more on alcohol and less on food and utilities?

Public Health Scotland (PHS) has published the final report from a study which evaluated the impact of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) on people who drink alcohol at harmful levels.

By James Trimble
Tuesday, 7th June 2022, 12:11 pm

The University of Sheffield, the University of Newcastle (Australia) and Figure 8 Consultancy Services carried out the wide-ranging study to understand how this important, yet hard-to-reach population responded to MUP.

A large programme of mixed-methods research was used to examine impacts on alcohol purchasing and consumption, other positive and negative effects of the policy, and the impact on key groups, such as family members or those living in remote or rural areas.

A PHS spokesperson said: “Among those drinking at harmful levels or people with alcohol dependence, the study found no clear evidence of a change in consumption or severity of dependence.

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The MUP study found some people were spending more on alcohol at the expense of other essential items

"Findings also showed that some economically vulnerable groups experienced increased financial strain as the price rises meant they were spending more on alcohol.

This led some people who were dependent on alcohol to reduce other expenditure, such as that on food and utilities.

“There was little evidence found of other negative consequences in this population following the introduction of MUP, such as increased crime, a shift to the use of illicit

substances or acute withdrawal.

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"People with alcohol dependence were also found to have a limited awareness and understanding of MUP and reported receiving little information or support before its introduction.

Professor John Holmes, of the University of Sheffield, said: “We know from previous studies that MUP reduced alcohol sales, including among those who bought the

most alcohol before the policy.

"Our study shows that people with alcohol dependence responded to MUP in very different ways. Some reduced their spending on other things but others switched to

lower strength drinks or simply bought less alcohol.

"It is important that alcohol treatment services and other organisations find ways to support those who do have financial problems, particularly as inflation rises.”

PHS public health intelligence adviser Helen Chung Patterson added: “People who drink at harmful levels, and particularly those with alcohol dependence, are a diverse group with complex needs who often experience multiple interacting health and social problems.

"This population therefore have the potential to benefit the most from MUP but may also continue to experience harms.”