• Age;
  • alcohol;
  • attributable risk;
  • inequalities;
  • injuries;
  • mortality


Aims  To describe three aspects of the epidemiology of alcohol-attributable deaths in Europe, dose, demography and place, and to illustrate how such knowledge can better be used to inform alcohol policy formulation and implementation.

Design  epidemiological and population health modeling.

Setting  Europe.

Participants  Based on country-specific aggregate statistics.

Measurements  Exposure: country-specific adult per capita consumption triangulated with survey data; outcomes: mortality statistics.

Findings  The absolute risk of dying from an alcohol-attributable disease and injury (accounting for a protective effect for ischaemic diseases) increases with increasing daily alcohol consumption beyond 10g alcohol per day, the first data point. Over 2/3 of all alcohol-attributable deaths occurring amongst the 20–64 year old population of the European Union (minus Cyprus and Malta) occur in the 45–64 year olds. About 25% of the difference in life expectancy between western and eastern Europe for men aged 20–64 years in 2002 can be attributed to alcohol, largely, but not exclusively, as a result of differences in heavy episodic drinking patterns.

Conclusions  Any reduction in the dose of alcohol consumed, at least down to 10g/day, will reduce the annual and lifetime risk of an alcohol-related death. There is a need for alcohol policy to focus on measures in reducing alcohol consumption, throughout middle age, with immediacy of impact. Policy should strive to reduce alcohol-related health inequalities, with the specific recommendations for policy depending on the cost-effectiveness of interventions related to the epidemiological profile of the country or region under consideration. Fortunately, there are evidence-based policy options that reduce the amount of alcohol consumed and many alcohol-related harms with immediate effect, that reduce the risk of an alcohol-related death in middle age, and that would help to close the health gap between eastern and western Europe.