A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association on April 20, 2016, has found that the excess mortality rate associated with alcoholism showed different trends in different age groups: more affected by familial factors in early life, affected by familial and direct results of alcohol use disorder (AUD) in middle life and affected by only direct effects of AUD in later adult life.

Higher mortality death rates are indeed associated with alcoholism (alcohol use disorder) largely due to shared familial factors rather than the direct effects of alcoholism itself in people under the age of 40. Middle aged people, between 40 to 59 years, had higher rates of mortality associated with both the familial factors and the direct effects of alcoholism. People in late adulthood had excess mortality rates associated largely with the effects of AUD itself.

These familial traits can include genetic factors, and personality traits such as impulsive nature and inclination towards substance abuse. The study classified the complex and direct effects of ACD as exposures to alcohol intake over long periods of time, poor nutrition, frequent intoxication and its association with poor judgment in a dangerous situation, social isolation, increased drug and tobacco use, and poor health.

Another important finding included that the older the person and longer they had AUD, the larger was the proportion of association of AUD and the mortality rate, which appeared to be causal.

The study was constructed on a co-relational study design and included a cohort of all the people born in Sweden from the year 1940 to 1965. Data on half siblings, full siblings, and monozygotic twins was collected from Multi Generation and Twin Register. They were followed from January 1973 until December 2010, for a period of 37 years. A total of 127,347 and 76,325 respective deaths in male and females were reported. AUD incidence rates and information was collected from medical, criminal and pharmacy registries.

The aim of the study as described by the researchers was to find associations between predispositions and direct effects of AUD with incidence of death as the results could potentially help understand the ‘implications for interventions seeking to reduce the elevated AUD-associated mortality’.

The study was sponsored by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse, Swedish Research Council, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, and ALF funding from Region Skåne.

These results are consistent with previous studies which have concluded that mortality rates decline with the reduced alcohol consumption at a population level, alcohol dependent individuals who continue to drink compared to people who lessen their consumption have a greater mortality, and interventions which enforce less drinking reduce mortality rates.

Kenneth S. Kendler, MD, of Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, was the primary researcher involved in the project and is an expert on genetics of psychiatric and substance abuse disorders. Dr Kenneth majorly focuses on twin studies and molecular genetics as a basis for his research. He obtained his MD from Stanford School of Medicine in 1977.

According to another study, there is a significant increase in mortality of alcohol dependent individuals compared with the general population with the relative risk of 3.45 which means there are more chances of a person with AUD of dying than a random person from the population.

Currently, 17.6 million people, or one out of 12 adults, in United States suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence. It is currently the most commonly consumed addictive substance in the country.

AUD is the pattern of alcohol use that involves issues like control problems, preoccupation with alcohol, continued use despite these problems, and experience of withdrawal symptoms when a person stops drinking. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system and can cause liver, heart, digestive, diabetic, and sexual dysfunctions in a human.

Currently, 7.2 percent of the population in the United States has AUD. The standard diagnosis is usually made by a physician according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), provided by the American Psychiatric Association.

National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) under the NIH supervises, supports, and conducts research on the causes, treatments, consequences and prevention of alcoholism in America.