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Figures reveal ethnic variations in prevalence of alcohol-related diseases

Irish people living in Scotland are more than twice as likely to end up in hospital or die from alcohol-related diseases as white Scottish people, research has found.

The risk for women from a mixed ethnic background is almost 100 times that of white Scots, scientists concluded.

People with Chinese or Pakistani roots had the lowest risks of alcohol-related illness or death. However, the latter group were in greatest danger contracting of other liver diseases such as viral hepatitis.

Researchers who carried out the large-scale study said the ethnic variations in alcohol risk is a “cause for concern” and that lessons need to be learned from communities with low rates of death and illness from alcohol.

The study is believed to be the first to use a reliable measure of ethnicity, taking data from the NHS and the 2001 Census, and using the rate of disease in the White Scottish population – Scotland’s largest ethnic group – as the benchmark.

Compared to the white Scottish population, women of mixed ethnicity are 99% more likely to to require hospital stays or die from alcohol-related disease.

Irish men living in Scotland showed an 82% higher risk compared to white Scots, while for Irishwomen in the country it was 55% higher.

For Chinese populations across Scotland, the likelihood of being hospitalised or dying from alcohol-related disease decreased by around 45% compared to the white Scots and for Pakistani population the risk dropped by 33% for men and 52% for women.

Dr Neeraj Bhala, who conducted the study at Edinburgh University’s Centre for Population Health Sciences, said: “The ethnic variation in the alcohol and liver-related hospitalisations and deaths in Scotland found in this large-scale study is a cause for concern.

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“We have important lessons to learn about preventing these alcohol- and liver-related deaths, and we should look to communities with typically low levels of alcohol consumption to help develop policies that benefit the whole population of Scotland.”

The findings have been published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism.

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