Aims: Finland experienced a large reduction in alcohol prices in 2004 due to in the lowering of alcohol taxes by about one-third and the abolition of duty-free allowances for travellers from the European Union. We examined the effects of these changes on alcohol-related hospitalizations.
Design and participants: Time-series intervention analyses of monthly aggregations of hospitalization for acute and chronic causes among men and women aged 15-39, 40-49, 50-69 and more than 69 years.
Setting: Finland, 1996-2006.
Findings: After the price reduction the chronic hospitalization rate for men increased among those below age 70 years. It was largest among those aged 50-69 years: 22%, which implies an increase of 18.0 monthly hospitalizations per 100,000 person-years, and there was an 11% and 16% (11.5 and 4.8 monthly hospitalizations) increase among those aged 40-49 and 15-39, respectively. Among the women the rate increased by 23% (4.0 monthly hospitalizations) in the 50-69-year-olds, and decreased in the under-40s. The increase in all the population groups was due mainly to an increase in mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol. Acute hospitalizations increased by 17% and 20% (6.2 and 7.0 per month) among men aged 40-49 and 50-69 years, respectively, and by 38% among women aged 50-69 years (2.3 per month).
Conclusions: The results, obtained in a natural experimental setting when trends and seasonal variation had been taken into account, suggest that the reduction in alcohol prices led to increases in alcohol-related hospitalization in certain population groups, mainly among 50-69-year-olds, in Finland.
© 2011 The Authors, Addiction © 2011 Society for the Study of Addiction.