Background: Alcohol is a substantial risk factor for mortality according to the recent 2010 World Health Assembly strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol which outlined the need to characterize and monitor this burden. Accordingly, using new methodology we estimated 1) the number of deaths caused and prevented by alcohol consumption, and 2) the potential years of life lost (PYLLs) attributable to alcohol consumption in Canada in 2005.
Methods: Mortality attributable to alcohol consumption was estimated by calculating Alcohol-Attributable Fractions (AAFs) (defined as the proportion of mortality that would be eliminated if the exposure was eliminated) using data from various sources. Indicators for alcohol consumption were obtained from the Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey 2008 and corrected for adult per capita recorded and unrecorded alcohol consumption. Risk relations were taken from the Comparative Risk Assessment within the current Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study. Due to concerns about the reliability of information specifying causes of death for people aged 65 or older, our analysis was limited to individuals aged 0 to 64 years. Calculation of the 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for the AAFs was performed using Monte Carlo random sampling. Information on mortality was obtained from Statistics Canada. A sensitivity analysis was performed comparing the mortality results obtained using our study methods to results obtained using previous methodologies.
Results: In 2005, 3,970 (95% CI: 810 to 7,170) deaths (4,390 caused and 420 prevented) and 134,555 (95% CI: 36,690 to 236,376) PYLLs were attributable to alcohol consumption for individuals aged 0 to 64 years. These figures represent 7.7% (95% CI: 1.6% to 13.9%) of all deaths and 8.0% (95% CI: 2.2% to 14.1%) of all PYLLs for individuals aged 0 to 64 years. The sensitivity analysis showed that the number of deaths as measured by this new methodology is greater than that if mortality was estimated using previous methodologies.
Conclusions: The mortality burden attributable to alcohol consumption for Canada is large, unnecessary, and could be substantially reduced in a short period of time if effective public health policies were implemented. A monitoring system on alcohol consumption is imperative and would greatly assist in planning and evaluating future Canadian public health policies related to alcohol consumption.