The aim of the study was to assess whether alcohol-related mortality data in the UK should be extended to include contributory as well as underlying cause of death.
A total of 101,320 deaths registered in Northern Ireland between 2001 and 2007 were analysed to determine the quantity and characteristics of those with an underlying or contributory alcohol-related cause of death.
Alcohol was found to be an underlying cause of death in 1690 cases (1.7% of deaths) and a contributory cause in a further 1105 cases. Analyses show that the addition of alcohol-related contributory causes of deaths would increase the male–female ratio, result in steeper socio-economic gradients and amplify the apparent rate of increase of alcohol-related deaths. The significant contribution of alcohol to external causes of death, such as accidents and suicide, is also more evident.
Using only underlying cause of death undoubtedly underestimates the burden of alcohol-related harm and may provide an inaccurate picture of those most likely to suffer from an alcohol-related death, especially among younger men.
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