Aims: Brief interventions for problem drinking may result in decreased mortality rates. Long-term follow-up studies of brief interventions do not produce a clear answer to the question as to whether these interventions reduce mortality or not.
Methods: We conducted a meta-analysis of randomized studies comparing brief interventions with a control group, using the fixed-effects model. A systematic literature search produced four studies in which the mortality status of subjects was verified at follow-up. Six more studies reported some deaths at follow-up but did not verify mortality in death registers, and 22 further studies did not report the mortality status of the included subjects.
Findings: The pooled relative risk (RR) of dying was 0.47 for the four studies with verified mortality rates (95% CI: 0.25, 0.89). The pooled RR of all 32 studies was comparable (RR = 0.57; 95% CI: 0.38, 0.84), as were the RRs of several other subsamples of studies. The prevented fraction was 0.33 in the studies with verified mortality rates.
Conclusions: Although the overall death rate was low in the population of problem drinkers, brief interventions do appear to reduce mortality.