Background Accurate estimates of the impact of alcohol on overall and age-specific mortality are crucial for formulating health policies. However, different approaches to estimating alcohol-attributable mortality provide different results, and a detailed comparison of age-specific estimates is missing. Methods Using data on cause of death, alcohol consumption, and relative risks of mortality at different consumption levels, we compare eight estimates of sex- and age-specific alcohol-attributable mortality in France (2010) and Finland (2013): five estimates using cause-of-death approaches (with one accounting for contributory causes), and three estimates using attributable fraction (AF) approaches. Results AF-related approaches and the approach based on alcohol-related underlying and contributory causes of death provided estimates of alcohol-attributable mortality that were twice as high as the estimates found using underlying cause-of-death approaches in both countries and sexes. The differences across the methods were greatest among older age groups An inverse U-shape in age-specific alcohol-attributable mortality (peaking at around age 65) was observed for cause-of-death approaches, with this shape being more pronounced in Finland. AF-related approaches resulted in different estimates at older ages: i.e., mortality was found to increase with age in France; whereas in Finland mortality estimates depended on the underlying assumptions regarding the effects of alcohol consumption on cardiovascular mortality. Conclusions While the most detailed approaches (i.e., the AF-related approach and the approach that includes underlying and contributory causes) are theoretically able to provide more accurate estimates of alcohol-attributable mortality, they–especially the AF approaches- depend heavily on data availability and quality. To enhance the reliability of alcohol-attributable mortality estimates, data quality for older age groups needs to be improved.
Trias-Llimós, S., Martikainen, P., Mäkelä, P., & Janssen, F. (2018). Comparison of different approaches for estimating age-specific alcohol-attributable mortality: The cases of France and Finland. PLoS ONE, 13(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0194478