Background: Minimum price of alcohol is one of the proposed set of alcohol policies in many high-income countries. However, the extent to which alcohol-related harm is associated with minimum prices across socioeconomic groups is not known.
Methods: Using Finnish national registers in 1988-2007, we investigated, by means of time-series analysis, the association between minimum prices for alcohol overall, as well as for various types of alcoholic beverages, and alcohol-related mortality, among men and women ages 30-79 years across three educational groups. We defined quarterly aggregations of alcohol-related deaths, based on a sample including 80% of all deaths, in accordance with information on both underlying and contributory causes of death.
Results: About 62,500 persons died from alcohol-related causes during the 20-year follow-up. The alcohol-related mortality rate was more than threefold higher among those with a basic education than among those with a tertiary education. Among men with a basic education, an increase of 1% in the minimum price of alcohol was associated with a decrease of 0.03% (95% confidence interval = 0.01, 0.04%) in deaths per 100,000 person-years. Changes in the minimum prices of distilled spirits, intermediate products, and strong beer were also associated with changes in the opposite direction among men with a basic education and among women with a secondary education, whereas among the most highly educated there were no associations between the minimum prices of any beverages and mortality. Moreover, we found no evidence of an association between lower minimum prices for wine and higher rates of alcohol-related mortality in any of the population sub-groups.
Conclusions: The results reveal associations between higher minimum prices and lower alcohol-related mortality among men with a basic education and women with a secondary education for all beverage types except wine.