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Alcohol cause of premature mortality in the Americas

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Yearly deaths total to over 79,000 in sixteen countries

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Researchers from the Pan American Health Organization, the world’s oldest international public health agency in a population based study measured the number and pattern of disease mortality, conditions and injuries where alcohol was a necessary cause in selected countries in the Americas.

Dr. Vilma Gawryszewski, Health Analysis and Information Unit, Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis Department and Dr. Maristela Monteiro, Mental Health Unit, Non Communicable Diseases and Mental Health Department, and authors of this study used data from 16 countries in North, Central and South America for the years 2007 to 2009. A total of 238, 367 were analyzed.

Researchers calculated age-adjusted and age-specific mortality rates by sex and country using the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) mortality database.

The findings showed annual average of deaths where alcohol was a necessary cause in the 16 countries was 79,456 (men 86% women 14%).People aged 40 to 59 years accounted for 55% overall.

The highest death rates from alcohol consumption came had occurred in El Salvador (averaging 27.4 out of 100,000 deaths per year), Guatemala (22.3), and Nicaragua (21.3).

Male rates were higher than female rates in all countries, but the male: female ratio varied widely.

The risk of a man dying where alcohol was a necessary cause compared to women was 27.8 times higher in El Salvador, 18.9 in Nicaragua and 14.8 in Cuba. However, male mortality risk was lower in Canada and the United States with a 3.2 times higher risk and in the Peru 4.3 times higher.

The age groups at the highest risk were 54 to 59 years to 64 to 69 years in most countries. In Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua the rates increased earlier, among those aged 30 to 49 years.

Most deaths were due to liver diseases (63% overall) and neuropsychiatric disorders (32% overall).

In their conclusion the authors write” Diseases, conditions or injuries where alcohol is a necessary cause are an important cause of premature mortality in the Americas, especially among men. Some countries show high risk of dying from this group of causes.”

The authors commented, "The mortality rates found in this study reveal the tip of the iceberg of a broader problem. There is a wide range of diseases and conditions linked to alcohol use, including tuberculosis, heart disease, stroke, epilepsy, falls, suicides, transport-related injuries, and interpersonal violence, among others. “

“Our study simply shows how many deaths are wholly attributable to alcohol consumption. The number of deaths for which alcohol consumption is a significant contributing factor is likely to be much higher."

This study appears in Addiction.

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