Trends in Mortality Attributable to Current Alcohol Consumption in East and West Germany

Social Science and Medicine. 2003;56(7):1385-1395

Some time ago, the ILSI Europe Alcohol Task Force initiated a metaanalysis on mortality attributable to current alcohol consumption. A number of regions in Europe have been screened and the first study from this exercise was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (2001; Vol. 56, No.6 pp.383-388) Now, a second study from this activity has been published. The review describes trends in mortality attributable to current alcohol consumption in eastern and western Germany. There is emerging awareness of alcohol as a cause of the persisting health divide between eastern and western Germany.

This study quantifies the burden of alcohol attributable mortality in the two parts of Germany in the 1990s, taking into account both adverse and beneficial effects of alcohol.

Including the cardio-protective effect of alcohol, there were about 1.4% more deaths among men aged 20+ in 1992 in Germany than would have been expected in a non-drinking population, while there were 0.1% fewer deaths among women. By 1997, this had increased to 1.8% excess male deaths and 0.1% excess female deaths. In 1997, alcohol ‘caused’ 9.0% of all deaths in east German men compared with 5.6% in the west (women east: 2.5% women west: 2.2%). At the same time, alcohol ‘prevented’ 5.2% deaths in east German men compared with 4.3% in the west, while there were 2.9% and 2.0% fewer deaths in women. It was concluded that mortality attributable to alcohol contributes considerably to overall mortality and to the east-west gap in Germany.

This study points to the need for comprehensive policies on alcohol in Germany to close the persisting east-west health gap.

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