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Association of Alcohol Consumption to Mortality and Person-Years of Life Lost in Switzerland: Measuring the Impact of Some Methodological Options

Elisabeth Gutjahr and Gerhard Gmel
European Journal of Epidemiology
Vol. 20, No. 1 (2005), pp. 37-47
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25047406
Page Count: 11
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Association of Alcohol Consumption to Mortality and Person-Years of Life Lost in Switzerland: Measuring the Impact of Some Methodological Options
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Abstract

Objectives: The present study is designed to estimate the health impact of alcohol consumption in terms of the number of deaths and person-years of life lost (PYLL) in Switzerland. To that end, three hypothetical situations have been compared to the current situation used as a reference. The underlying question was: how many deaths and person-years of life lost would be avoided if all individuals were: (1) non-drinkers, (2) low drinkers only or (3) both (either abstainers or low level drinkers)? Methods: Etiological fractions of alcohol-related health consequences by age and gender were applied to the officially reported numbers of deaths to estimate the total number of deaths and PYLL. Results: Depending upon the hypothetical situation, the estimated number of alcohol-related deaths varied between an overall net protective and an overall net causal effect: in situation (1), there would occur ·730 additional deaths in reference to the current situation (+1.2% of the total alcohol-related mortality in Switzerland), whereas in situation (2) there would be 3460 deaths less (-5.5%). Thus, the current situation in Switzerland would be preferable compared to a society, in which no one drinks alcohol. A society, however, in which every individual drinks at low levels, would be preferable to the current situation. The corresponding figures for PYLL are 23,596 vs. 29,229 (6.4% vs. 7.9% of total PYLL). Conclusions: The hypothetical situation decisively impacts on the number of deaths attributable to alcohol. In contrast, it has much less influence on the number of alcohol-related PYLL. Thus, mortality is at least a questionable indicator of alcohol-related health outcomes. The study also indicated that more lives and PYLL were saved in the low-risk situation than in the abstinence situation. Public health policies should not concentrate on the promotion of abstinence.

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