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Mortality in England and Wales attributable to current alcohol consumption


STUDY OBJECTIVE To estimate the number of deaths attributable to current alcohol consumption levels in England and Wales by age and sex.

DESIGN Epidemiological approach using published relative risks and population data.

SETTING England and Wales.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES Numbers of deaths by age and sex and years of life lost for alcohol related conditions.

RESULTS Because of the cardioprotective properties of alcohol, it is estimated that there are approximately 2% fewer deaths annually in England and Wales than would be expected in a non-drinking population. This proportion varies greatly by age and sex and only among men aged over 55 years and women aged over 65 years is there likely to be found a net favourable mortality balance. It is also estimated that there were approximately 75 000 premature years of life lost in England and Wales in 1996 attributable to alcohol consumption. The main causes of alcohol attributable mortality among the young include road traffic fatalities, suicide and alcoholic liver disease.

CONCLUSIONS At a population level, current alcohol consumption in England and Wales may marginally reduce mortality. However, the benefit is disproportionately found among the elderly. Estimating alcohol attributable mortality by age and sex may be a useful indicator for developing alcohol strategies. More research into the possible effect modifications of pattern of consumption, beverage type, age and gender will enable these estimates to be improved.

  • alcohol consumption
  • mortality

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  • Funding: unconditional grant from International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI-Europe).

  • Conflicts of interest: none.