Background: Alcohol dependence (AD) carries a high mortality burden, which may be mitigated by reduced alcohol consumption. We conducted a systematic literature review and meta-analysis investigating the risk of all-cause mortality in alcohol-dependent subjects.
Methods: MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process, Embase and PsycINFO were searched from database conception through 26th June 2014. Eligible studies reported all-cause mortality in both alcohol-dependent subjects and a comparator population of interest. Two individuals independently reviewed studies. Of 4540 records identified, 39 observational studies were included in meta-analyses.
Findings: We identified a significant increase in mortality for alcohol-dependent subjects compared with the general population (27 studies; relative risk [RR] = 3.45; 95% CI [2.96, 4.02]; p < 0.0001). The mortality increase was also significant compared to subjects qualifying for a diagnosis of alcohol abuse or subjects without alcohol use disorders (AUDs). Alcohol-dependent subjects continuing to drink heavily had significantly greater mortality than alcohol-dependent subjects who reduced alcohol intake, even if abstainers were excluded (p < 0.05).
Interpretation: AD was found to significantly increase an individual's risk of all-cause mortality. While abstinence in alcohol-dependent subjects led to greater mortality reduction than non-abstinence, this study suggests that alcohol-dependent subjects can significantly reduce their mortality risk by reducing alcohol consumption.
Keywords: Abstinence; Alcohol dependence; Alcoholism; Meta-analysis; Mortality; Systematic review.