Medicina (Kaunas) 2009; 45 (12): 1000-1012

Contents Visas straipsnis lietuvių kalba  

Associations between mortality and alcohol consumption in Lithuanian population

Vilius Grabauskas, Remigijus Prochorskas, Aurelijus Veryga

Department of Preventive Medicine, Kaunas University of Medicine, Lithuania

Key words: mortality; alcohol consumption; international comparisons; health policy.

Summary. The objective of the study was to assess alcohol-related mortality that potentially might explain an increasing trend in overall mortality of Lithuanian population, which started after 2000 and peaked in 2005.

Material and methods. An empiric analysis of national mortality and other statistical data as well as their international comparisons.

Results. An analysis of available data clearly indicates that a decline in mortality in 1998–2000, i.e. during the beginning of the National Programme of Health, as well as its increase in 2001 and 2005 were predominantly determined by cause-specific deaths of two groups: deaths from diseases of the circulatory system (mainly ischemic heart disease) and alcohol consumption-related deaths (liver cirrhosis, accidental poisoning by alcohol, accidents, etc.). A certain proportion of deaths, which were caused by alcohol, were wrongly assigned to the deaths from diseases of the circulatory system due to uncertainties in filling-in death certificates. By approximate estimates, at least one-quarter of increase in all-cause mortality between 2002–2004 and 2005–2007 could be explained by an increase in alcohol consumption, accounting for additional 880 deaths on average per year. In the year 2007, 12.6% (n=5760) of all deaths were somehow related to alcohol consumption.

A comparative analysis demonstrated that mortality and alcohol consumption trends were going in parallel over the last decade. The systemic decline in mortality observed in Lithuania from 1995 stopped in 2000 after a decrease in alcohol taxes, which resulted in an increase in alcohol accessibility and consumption. An average annual increase in alcohol consumption over the period of 2001–2004 was 7%; it increased up to 17% in 2005 and accounted for 12% annual increase on average within 2005–2007.

Conclusions. Negative trends in alcohol-related morbidity and mortality in Lithuanian population most notably registered in 2001 and 2005 were largely influenced by uncontrollable increase in alcohol consumption over the last decade. Economic and commercial arguments in decision-making process that neglected health interest of Lithuanian population (decrease of alcohol taxes in 1999, other factors increasing alcohol accessibility and consumption) were those counteracting the implementation of balanced health policy in the country.

Correspondence to V. Grabauskas, Department of Preventive Medicine, Kaunas University of Medicine, A. Mickevičiaus 9, 44307 Kaunas, Lithuania. E-mail:

Received 2 November 2009, accepted 4 December 2009