Aims: To describe three aspects of the epidemiology of alcohol-attributable deaths in Europe, dose, demography and place, and to illustrate how such knowledge can better be used to inform alcohol policy formulation and implementation.
Design: epidemiological and population health modeling.
Participants: Based on country-specific aggregate statistics.
Exposure: country-specific adult per capita consumption triangulated with survey data; outcomes: mortality statistics.
Findings: The absolute risk of dying from an alcohol-attributable disease and injury (accounting for a protective effect for ischaemic diseases) increases with increasing daily alcohol consumption beyond 10 g alcohol per day, the first data point. Over 2/3 of all alcohol-attributable deaths occurring amongst the 20-64 year old population of the European Union (minus Cyprus and Malta) occur in the 45-64 year olds. About 25% of the difference in life expectancy between western and eastern Europe for men aged 20-64 years in 2002 can be attributed to alcohol, largely, but not exclusively, as a result of differences in heavy episodic drinking patterns.
Conclusions: Any reduction in the dose of alcohol consumed, at least down to 10 g/day, will reduce the annual and lifetime risk of an alcohol-related death. There is a need for alcohol policy to focus on measures in reducing alcohol consumption, throughout middle age, with immediacy of impact. Policy should strive to reduce alcohol-related health inequalities, with the specific recommendations for policy depending on the cost-effectiveness of interventions related to the epidemiological profile of the country or region under consideration. Fortunately, there are evidence-based policy options that reduce the amount of alcohol consumed and many alcohol-related harms with immediate effect, that reduce the risk of an alcohol-related death in middle age, and that would help to close the health gap between eastern and western Europe.
© 2011 The Authors, Addiction © 2011 Society for the Study of Addiction.