DEATH RATE 2% LOWER THAN IN NON-DRINKING POPULATION
It is a fact – sensible moderate drinking can help you to a longer life.
A recent study has concluded that as a result of the cardio-protective effects of alcohol, it is estimated that there are approximately 2% fewer deaths annually in England and Wales than would be expected in a totally non-drinking population. Northern Ireland could be expected to show similar results. The relative benefits varied greatly by age and sex and the net favourable mortality balance is mainly amongst men aged over 55 years and women over 65 years, where risk of cardiovascular disease the biggest killer, is highest.
The aim of this study, by Drs Annie Britton and Kim McPherson, was to estimate the number of deaths attributable to current alcohol consumption levels in England and Wales by age and sex. An epidemiological approach, using published relative risks and population data, was used to show the number of deaths by age and sex and years of life lost for alcohol related conditions.
The study estimated that in the year for which data was extracted (1996) there were approximately 75 000 premature years of life lost in England and Wales attributable to alcohol consumption. Among the young, the main alcohol related mortality included road traffic fatalities, suicide and alcoholic liver disease.
However, taking into account the ‘Mediterranean Diet Effect’, the overall impact of moderate alcohol consumption in England and Wales, at a population level, alcohol consumption may marginally reduce overall mortality by up to 2% per annum. As expected, the benefit is disproportionately found among the middle aged and elderly.
It is believed that further research into the possible effect of modifications to the pattern of consumption, beverage type, age and gender will enable these estimates to be improved.
Frank Caddy, chief executive of NIDIG (N.I. Drinks Industry Group) welcomed the research findings “It confirms what the industry has suspected since the ‘French Paradox’ was identified – moderate alcohol consumption can form part of a healthy balanced diet for a longer life. However, drinking to excess, or binge drinking, can definitely harm your health. So remember ‘Moderation – you know it makes sense’”
Source: Britton A, McPherson K. Mortality in England and Wales attributable to current alcohol consumption. Hlth Promotion Res Unit, London Sch Hygiene and Tropical Med, Keppel St, London WC1E 7HT, UK. J Epidemiol Community Heath 2001;55:383