cares alcohol-and-health rural-matters-report-understanding-alcohol-use-in-rural-areas

Rural Matters report - understanding alcohol use in rural areas

Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) has launched a new report on understanding alcohol use in rural areas.

The Rural Matters report brings together findings from community consultations and qualitative interviews with healthcare professionals, service providers, recovery community members and fellowship members working and living in rural and remote areas of Scotland, and makes recommendations for research, policy and practice.

The report shows how the cultural and social context of drinking in rural areas shapes peoples’ attitudes about alcohol use, and impacts how people access services. In particular, it highlights how stigma around alcohol issues can affect whether people feel comfortable seeking help, and can act as a barrier to people accessing services and support for alcohol issues in some rural areas.  

Key recommendations from the report emphasise the need to improve access to services in rural communities by investing in both public transport links and broadband, so that online services can be offered to people where appropriate.

The report also recommends investing in training and education for healthcare and service providers and supporting rural medicine programmes, as well as promoting assertive outreach.

To combat the effects of stigma, the report calls for investment in social spaces that do not provide or market alcohol, as well as funding for recovery communities to provide safe, alcohol-free spaces and programmes in rural areas.  

Lindsay Paterson, Interim Director of SHAAP, said:   “SHAAP is excited to have launched our new Rural Matters report today. This important report highlights the challenges that people living in rural areas can face when accessing services and support for alcohol issues, and the importance of investing in solutions that can be responsive to the specific needs of these communities. In line with much of our other work, this report also demonstrates how much work still needs to be done to combat the stigma that many people dealing with alcohol issues face when seeking help and support, and the need for funding and support for alcohol-free spaces and programmes, in this case in rural areas”.  

Jackie MacDiarmid, SHAAP Research and Projects Officer and author of the report, said:   “Alcohol use remains a major public health challenge in Scotland, and carries risks of physical and mental health problems, as well as broader social and economic harms. On average, 22 people per week still die from a cause wholly attributable to alcohol in Scotland. These are deaths that are preventable. There are also significant inequalities by area of deprivation when it comes to alcohol-specific death rates and alcohol-related hospital stays. Given that the experience of poverty in rural areas may differ from urban centres, it is important that we understand the specific challenges facing these communities when it comes to alcohol consumption, and access to services, support and recovery. We are delighted that the Rural Matters report is able to contribute to the understanding of this important topic”.

Media inquiries:   Dr Elizabeth Hurst-High, Policy Officer, SHAAP 0795 8070030  

Notes to Editors:  
1. Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) is a partnership of the Medical Royal Colleges in Scotland and the Faculty of Public Health and is based at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. SHAAP provides the authoritative medical and clinical voice on the need to reduce the impact of alcohol-related harm on the health and wellbeing of people in Scotland and the evidence-based approaches to achieve this:
2. Figures on alcohol-specific deaths, hospital-related alcohol stays and inequalities in Scotland are from Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS): Monitoring Report 2020, published by Public Health Scotland:

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