Background: Alcohol as a cause of death in middle-aged patients is well-known from clinical studies. A similarly important correlation in the general population of urban middle-aged men is highly underestimated. Health screening investigations have shown that mortality related to alcohol is five times more common in nonparticipants than in participants. From the mid-70s, the Malmoe Screening and Intervention Study (MSIS) commenced screening investigations including a large number of residents of Malmoe. One goal was to find intervention programs for individuals in an early development of problem drinking, thereby preventing development of serious complications of endstage alcoholism. Herein, we report on the mortality of heavy drinkers (drinking more than 40 g alcohol/day) who were randomized to an intervention or control procedure and whose median survival was 13 years postentry into the MSIS.
Methods: Health-screened men, aged 45–49 years at the initial screening examination and displaying serum gamma-glutamyltransferase (GT) in the top decentile of the GT distribution, were included. A total of 978 out of 11,257 participants met this criteria. A randomized intervention and control study was performed for four years and consisted of men (n= 667) who were born between 1927–1937 and who had two consecutive high GT values within 3 weeks along with heavy alcohol consumption. Half the individuals were informed of the test results and invited for further assessment by a senior physician (n= 365). The principles for brief intervention (DiClemente et al.,1991; Miller and Sanchez, 1993; National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1999) were applied. The other half of the men (n= 302) were left with the information that they had a high GT value and were followed up with laboratory checkups every 2nd year. Mortality was followed up until 1991 and information on deaths was obtained from hospital and police records, necropsy reports, and death certificates.
Results: Long-term follow-up of mortality for 10–16 years (median, 13 years) showed that 124 of the 978 men had died (12.7%). Autopsy was performed in 96.5% of the cases. In 59 men (48%), death was alcohol-related. In the intervention group (n= 365), 38 (10.4%) men were dead and in the control group (n= 302), 42 (13.9%) men had died. There was a statistically significant difference (p= 0.026), with advantage for treatment. Less alcohol-related deaths and deaths occurring later during follow-up were found in the intervention group compared with the control group. The difference between the groups in total mortality, coronary heart disease, and cancer death was not statistically significant.
Conclusions: These findings support previous results from the MSIS study indicating that long-term intervention in urban males with alcohol-induced GT increases may be beneficial in terms of survival.