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2% fewer deaths in a drinking population
The aim of this study by Britton A and McPherson K, 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 found 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 non-drinking population. The proportions 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 study also estimated that in 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.

In England and Wales, at a population level, current alcohol consumption may marginally reduce mortality. The benefit is disproportionately found among the middle aged and elderly. 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.

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;55:383-8

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