Heavy drinking 'kills you quicker than smoking' and poses greater risk to women than men
Alcoholics die 20 years sooner on average than general population, groundbreaking study findsResearchers in Germany spent 14 years following 149 alcohol-dependent adults to produce report
Death rate among alcohol-dependent women was 4.6 times higher than normal, academics found
Rate among men with alcohol problems was almost twice as high as the general male population
06:39 GMT, 17 October 2012
Heavy drinking kills you more quickly than smoking and is especially dangerous among women, a study suggests.
Researchers found that alcoholics die about 20 years sooner on average than the general population.
People dependent on alcohol also live shorter lives on average than smokers, the findings indicate.
Warning: Dependency on alcohol is particularly dangerous among women, a study of mortality rates has found. (Picture posed by model)
Academics in Germany studied data spanning 14 years in relation to 149 adults with alcohol problems.
They found that the death rate among alcohol-dependent (AD) women was 4.6 times higher than average.
Research: Professor Ulrich John said that the findings appeared to show drinking could cause early death more frequently than smoking
The death rate for men with alcohol problems was almost double the level for men who did not rely on drink.
The study, reported in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, is groundbreaking because it looks at the impact of alcohol dependency over a long period.
Previous research has highlighted the dangers of excessive alcohol, but those findings were largely based on clinical trials.
Ulrich John, of University Medicine Greifswald, said: 'Clinical data
have revealed a higher proportion of individuals who have died than
among the general population of the same age.
'Gender-specific data are rare, even among clinical samples. Furthermore, these studies have two main limitations.
we know that only a minority of AD individuals receive treatment of
this disorder, but we lack knowledge about how this selection occurs.
we have no evidence about potential effects of specialised alcoholism
treatment on mortality among people who had been diagnosed as AD.
Alarming: Researchers in Germany found that the death rate among alcohol-dependent women was 4.6 times higher than average
'We would like to know whether treatment might enhance survival time.
'For ethical reasons, no controlled trials are possible.
'Thus, longitudinal descriptive data as in this study are helpful.'
Professor John's team looked at a
random sample of 4,070 respondents between the ages of 18 and 64, of
which 153 were identified as AD.
Of these, 149 – 119 men and 30 women – were followed for 14 years.
John said: 'First, we found that annualised death rates were 4.6-fold
higher for females and 1.9-fold higher for males compared to the age-
and gender-specific general population.
'Second, we found that the mean age at death was 60 for females and 58 for males, both of which are about 20 years lower than the mean age at death among the general population.
Risk: Researchers found that adults who are dependent on alcohol die about 20 years earlier on average than the general population. (Picture posed by model)
Groundbreaking: The study's conclusions are reported in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research
'None of those deceased had reached the age of life expectancy.
'Third, having participated in inpatient AD treatment was not related with longer survival compared to not having taken part in treatment, meaning that it did not seem to have a sufficient protective effect against premature death.'
Professor John said that the findings appeared to show drinking could cause early death more frequently than smoking.
He said: 'Smoking-related death cases are more due to cancers which seem to occur later in life than many alcohol-attributable causes of death do.
'Furthermore, drinking can also contribute to other risky behaviours such as smoking, becoming overweight, and obesity.
'Alcohol is a dangerous product and should be consumed only within guidelines.'