Gender differences in socioeconomic inequality of alcohol-attributable mortality: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Drug Alcohol Rev. 2015 May;34(3):267-77. doi: 10.1111/dar.12184. Epub 2014 Aug 8.


Introduction and aims: The present analysis contributes to understanding the societal distribution of alcohol-attributable harm by investigating socioeconomic inequality and related gender differences in alcohol-attributable mortality.

Design and methods: A systematic literature search was performed on Web of Science, MEDLINE, PsycINFO and ETOH from their inception until February 2013. Articles were included when they reported data on alcohol-attributable mortality by socioeconomic status (SES), operationalised as education, occupation, employment status or income. Gender-specific relative risks (RR) comparing low with high SES were pooled using random effects meta-analyses. Gender differences were additionally investigated in random effects meta-regressions.

Results: Nineteen articles from 14 countries were included. For women, significant RRs across all measures of SES, except employment status, were found, ranging between 1.75 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1.21-2.54; occupation] and 4.78 (95% CI 2.57-8.87; income). For men, all measures of SES showed significant RRs ranging between 2.88 (95% CI 2.45-3.40; income) and 12.25 (95% CI 11.45-13.10; employment status). While RRs for men were in general slightly higher, only for occupation this gender difference was above chance (P = 0.01). Results refer to deaths 100% attributable to alcohol.

Discussion and conclusions: The results are predominantly based on data from high-income countries, limiting generalisability. Alcohol-attributable mortality is strongly distributed to the disadvantage of persons with a low SES. Marked gender differences in this inequality were found for occupation. Possibly male-dominated occupations of low SES were more strongly related to risky drinking cultures compared with female-dominated occupations of the same SES.

Keywords: alcohol-related disorder; gender; mortality; risk; socioeconomic status.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol-Related Disorders / mortality*
  • Cause of Death
  • Employment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors