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Alcohol consumption and mortality: modelling risks for men and women at different ages

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 27 July 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:191
  1. Ian R White, medical statistician (ian.white{at},
  2. Dan R Altmann, medical statistician,
  3. Kiran Nanchahal, medical statistician
  1. Medical Statistics Unit, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT
  1. Correspondence to: I R White, Medical Research Council Biostatistics Unit, Institute of Public Health, Cambridge CB2 2SR
  • Accepted 12 February 2002


Objective: To estimate the relation between alcohol consumption and risk of death,the level of alcohol consumption at which risk is least, and how these vary with age and sex

Design: Analysis using published systematic reviews and population data

Setting: England and Wales in 1997

Main outcome measures: Death from any of the following causes: cancer of lip, oralcavity, pharynx, oesophagus, colon, rectum, liver, larynx, and breast, essential hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, cirrhosis, non-cirrhotic chronic liver disease, chronic pancreatitis,and injuries

Results: A direct dose-response relation exists between alcohol consumption and risk of death in women aged 16-54 and in men aged 16-34. At older ages the relation is U shaped. Thelevel at which the risk is lowest increases with age, reaching 3 units a week in women aged over 65 and 8 units a week in men aged over 65. The level at which the risk is increased by 5% above this minimum is 8 units a week in women aged 16-24 and 5 units a week in men aged 16-24, increasing to 20 and 34 units a week in women and men aged over 65,respectively

Conclusions: Substantially increased risks of all cause mortality can occur even in people drinking lower than recommended limits, and especially among younger people


  • Funding Alcohol Education and Research Council (grant No R17/97)

  • Competing interests None declared

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