Alcohol consumption (sales data)

What does alcohol sales data tell us?

Self-reported alcohol consumption is known to be an underestimate of the amount of alcohol people consume. The amount of alcohol sold has been used as a more objective measure of alcohol consumed within a population. Sales data are not available for Glasgow; instead the picture for Scotland is presented and compared with that in England & Wales.

Volume of alcohol sold (per adult) in Scotland and England & Wales

totalsales alcohol 2016Click on graph to expand

Alcohol sales increased in the early 1990s, peaked in the mid 2000s before falling in recent years. These trends in alcohol sales largely mirror the trends in alcohol related deaths, i.e. a rise in the early 1990s and a subsequent fall in the mid to late 2000s.

Alcohol sales in Scotland were 13% higher than in England and Wales in 1994, this gap narrowed in the early 2000s, but increased to 21% in 2016 largely because recent falls in alcohol sales in England and Wales were greater than in Scotland.

Volume of alcohol sold (per adult) in Scotland and England & Wales by TRADE type (on- and off-trade*)

totalsales ONTRADE 2016

totalsales OFFTRADE 2016Click on graphs to expand

The trends in alcohol sales since 1994 have largely been driven by increases in off-trade sales (*see Notes below for a description of on- and off-trade) in both Scotland and England & Wales.

On-trade sales of alcohol have fallen by 30-40% since 1994 while the amount of alcohol sold through off-trade sales increased by approximately 80% or more across Scotland and England and Wales.

Volume of alcohol sold (per adult) in Scotland and England and Wales by DRINK type

sales alcoholtype 2016Click on graph to expand

The difference in alcohol sales between Scotland and England and Wales is largely due to higher levels of spirits sold in Scotland (work by NHS Health Scotland has shown this is not because of sales to tourists or visitors, see Notes below for more details).

The increase in alcohol sales across the UK has been largely driven by increases in wine sales - the increase in wine sales was similar in Scotland and England and Wales.


These data are taken from the NHS Health Scotland Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy report. The report contains further comparisons of alcohol sales in Scotland and England and Wales.

Work by NHS Health Scotland showing that the higher spirits data are not as a result of sales to tourists can be found in NHS Health Scotland's Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy: A review of the validity and reliability of alcohol retail sales data for the purpose of Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (pages 10-14).

*On-trade: refers to business such as hotels, bars and restaurants that sell alcohol to be consumed on their premises

Off-trade: refers to retailers like supermarkets, off-licences that sell alcohol that is consumed off their premises

Additional Resources

  • Resource
    Wednesday, 11 June 2014

    Exploring alcohol-related harm in Glasgow

    A new report from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health explores the increasing burden of alcohol related deaths in Glasgow from a local, national and international context.
  • Resource
    Thursday, 26 May 2011

    Your Better Life Index

    A new, interactive index allowing users to measure and compare their lives.
  • Resource
    Sunday, 1 November 2009

    Miniature Glasgow - Video

    An extension of the GCPH's work profiling Glasgow's health, produced in collaboration with the International Future Forum.
  • Resource
    Wednesday, 19 August 2009

    A Games Legacy for Glasgow

    Brochure outlining the potential legacy of Glasgow's role as Commonwealth Games host city in 2014.
  • Resource
    Friday, 17 July 2009

    Views of Health in Glasgow - Video

    Originally produced for an international audience at a conference in Pittsburgh, USA, this film provides insights on health concerns and beliefs drawn from interviews with Glaswegians themselves and with a group of health experts.
  • Resource
    Monday, 3 April 2006

    Let Glasgow Flourish

    A comprehensive report on health and its determinants in Glasgow and West Central Scotland
View more Resources »