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Towards a standardised methodology for estimating alcohol-caused death, injury and illness in Australia

journal contribution
posted on 2002-10-01, 00:00 authored by T Chikritzhs, T Stockwell, H Jonas, Christopher StevensonChristopher Stevenson, M Cooper-Stanbury, S Donath, E Single, P Catalano
Two key methodological issues underlying different methods for calculating estimates of the number of alcohol-caused deaths are identified and recommendations suggested for future work.

1. How to adjust alcohol aetiologic fractions across time and place to reflect different levels of risky drinking. A common approach is outlined for both acute and chronic alcohol-related conditions. In the absence of consistent, reliable and regionally specific measures of the prevalence of risky alcohol consumption from national surveys, the use of per capita consumption data as a means of adjusting alcohol population aetiologic fractions over time and across regions is recommended.

2. Whether abstainers or low-risk drinkers should be used as the reference group when assessing the impact of alcohol consumption and how the resulting information is best presented. It is recommended that when abstainers are used as the reference group, the costs and benefits for both 'low-risk' and 'risky/high-risk' drinking should be identified. Using this approach, it was estimated that for Australia in 1998 there was a net benefit of 5,100 lives saved due to low-risk drinking, while there was a net loss of 2,737 lives due to risky/high-risk drinking. On its own, the figure of a net saving of 2,363 lives per year is a simplistic and potentially misleading picture of alcohol as a net benefit to public health and safety. For public health communications, there is still value in providing estimates using the low-risk drinking contrast, of the number of lives saved if risky/high-risk drinkers all became low-risk drinkers (n=3,292 in 1998). The use of the abstinence contrast, however, allows the more complex picture of alcohol's impact on public health to be apparent, e.g. including the estimated 1,505 deaths associated with low-risk drinking (mostly from cancer).



Australian and New Zealand journal of public health






443 - 450


Wiley - Blackwell Publishing Asia


Richmond, Vic.







Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

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