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18/02/2013

Sharp drop in alcohol-related deaths follows minimum alcohol price increase

An increase of minimum price of alcohol by 10 percent lead to a 32% reduction in alcohol-related deaths according to a study published today in Addiction.

7 February 2013. A new study made available online today in ‘Addiction’ shows that, between 2002 and 2009, the percentage of deaths caused by alcohol in British Columbia, Canada, dropped more than expected when minimum alcohol price was increased.

The paper has significant implications for international alcohol policy.

The major finding was that increased minimum alcohol prices were associated with immediate, substantial and significant reductions in wholly alcohol attributable deaths:

  • A 10% increase in the average minimum price for all alcoholic beverages was associated with a 32% reduction in wholly AA deaths
  • Significant reductions in chronic and total AA deaths were detected between two and three years after minimum price increases

This overall drop in deaths was more than expected, and disproportionate to the size of the minimum price increase.

The authors suggest that the reason for the reduction in mortality is that increasing the price of cheaper drinks reduces the consumption of heavier drinkers who prefer these drinks. They note that other research has also suggested that impacts on some types of mortality may be delayed by one or two years after price increases.

Dr Tim Stockwell, director of the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia and a lead author, said: “This study adds to the scientific evidence that, despite popular opinion to the contrary, even the heaviest drinkers reduce their consumption when minimum alcohol prices increase. It is hard otherwise to explain the significant changes in alcohol-related deaths observed in British Columbia.”

Mariann Skar, Secretary General of Eurocare, said: “We hope that European policy makers will take into account these results when deciding on the appropriateness of minimum pricing to tackle alcohol related-harm."

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NOTES TO EDITORS:

* Wholly alcohol attributable deaths included the following: poisonings due to alcohol, alcoholic psychoses, alcohol dependence, alcohol abuse, alcoholic cardiomyopathy, alcoholic gastritis, chronic pancreatitis (alcohol induced), fetal alcohol syndrome and excess alcohol blood level; acute alcohol attributable deaths comprised mainly injuries whether caused intentionally or unintentionally while chronic alcohol attributable deaths were those caused by alcohol-related illnesses such as liver cirrhosis and various cancers (e.g. cancers of the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, colon and breast). These types of diagnosis were determined from the underlying cause of death identified on the death certificates.

FOR MORE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT

University of Victoria, British Colombia, Canada
Dr Tim Stockwell Principal Investigator
Email timstock@uvic.ca
Phone +1 250 415 7376

ADDICTION (www.addictionjournal.org) is a monthly international scientific journal publishing peer-reviewed research reports on alcohol, illicit drugs, tobacco, and gambling as well as editorials and other debate pieces. Owned by the Society for the Study of Addiction, it has been in continuous publication since 1884.

European Alcohol Policy Alliance
Mariann Skar Secretary General
Email mariann.skar@eurocare.org
GSM: +32 (0) 474 830 041
Website: www.eurocare.org

EUROCARE (The European Alcohol Policy Alliance) is an alliance of non-governmental and public health organisations with around 50 member organisations across 23 European countries advocating the prevention and reduction of alcohol related harm in Europe.

www.eurocare.org

FACTS AND FIGURES ON ALCOHOL

  • Europe has the highest drinking levels in the world, the highest alcohol per capita consumption and the highest alcohol- related harm problems.
  • Chronic diseases, to which alcohol is the 3rd main contributory factor, are in the top of global risks next to such threats like fiscal crises and are expected to cost global economy over 30 trillion USD over the next two decades.
  • Across the EU some €125 billion a year (equivalent to 1.3% GDP). This is figure for 2004 likely to be higher by now
  • Alcohol is a major contributory factor in accidents; 1 in 3 of all road traffic deaths are caused by alcohol
  • 1 in 4 of male deaths between 15-29 years are due to alcohol
  • Alcohol is a risk factor in some 60 diseases such as cancer, liver cirrhosis etc.