Aims: Women treated for alcohol addiction have mortality rates three to five times those of women from the general population (GP). However, these figures may be inflated because socially disadvantaged women with advanced drinking careers are over-represented in previous studies. Our aim was to study the long-term mortality of socially relatively well-functioning patients coming to their first treatment, compared to matched GP controls.
Design: The mortality rates and causes of death were compared between patients and their matched GP controls, using data from the Causes of Death Register throughout the follow-up period (0-25 years).
Setting: A specialized treatment programme for women only, called 'Early treatment for Women with Alcohol Addiction' (EWA) at the Karolinska Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.
Participants: Subjects (n = 420) receiving their first treatment at the EWA programme, compared to a group of matched GP women (n = 2037).
Findings: The women patients had significantly higher mortality than matched GP controls throughout the whole follow-up period, with a relative risk of 2.4. However, the younger women had four times higher mortality than their matched controls. The peak of deaths occurred during the first 5 years, and alcohol-related causes of death were highly over-represented, as were uncertain suicides and accidents.
Conclusions: First-time-treated women with alcohol addiction have a substantially lower mortality than reported previously from clinical samples, except for the youngest group. Our figures were corrected for confounding factors such as socio-demographic status. We believe our results could apply to broader groups of heavy drinking women, inside or outside specialized treatment settings.