Severity of alcohol-related problems and mortality: results from a 20-year prospective epidemiological community study

  • Manfred M. FichterEmail author
  • Norbert Quadflieg
  • Uwe C. Fischer
Original Paper


There is evidence that high alcohol use is associated with an increase in mortality. Little is known about long-term effects of problematic alcohol consumption in non-clinical (community) populations. The aim of our study was to obtain data on this and related issues in a representative rural community sample assessed longitudinally over a period of 20 years. Assessments focused on a baseline survey from 1980 to 1984 and 20-year follow-up from 2001 to 2004. Based on expert interviews and standardized self-rating scales (e.g. MALT; Munich Alcoholism Test), the following three groups were defined (a) severe alcohol problems, (b) moderate alcohol problems, and (c) no alcohol problems. Mortality and hazard rates were analyzed with logistic and Cox regression adjusted for several health risk factors. From an original community sample of 1,465 individuals, 448 were deceased at 20-year follow-up. Participation rates were high. Baseline prevalence according to the MALT was 1.6% for severe alcohol problems and 4.0% for moderate alcohol problems. Over the 20-year time span, individuals with severe alcohol problems had a significantly elevated risk for dying earlier than the group with no alcohol problems (2.4 times higher). Mortality for those with moderate alcohol problems at baseline had a non-significantly elevated 20-year mortality risk (1.5 times higher) compared to those with no alcohol problems. Cox survival analyses corroborate these findings from multiple sequential logistic regression analyses. In discussing the mortality risk of persons with alcohol problems, the severity of the alcohol problems must be taken into account.


Psychiatric epidemiology Alcoholism Mortality Prospective longitudinal community studies 



This research was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Bonn, grant number Fi 333/4-1. We especially thank our interviewers Dipl.-Psych. Eva Bolz, Dipl.-Psych. Helen Castellanos, Dipl.-Psych. Andrea Dusold, Dipl.-Psych. Andreas Hampel, Dipl.-Psych. Birgit Schaider, Dipl.-Psych. Nicole Sevignani and Dipl.-Psych. Nadia Sosnowsky for their sensitive way of conducting interviews with the probands.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manfred M. Fichter
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Norbert Quadflieg
    • 1
  • Uwe C. Fischer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of Munich (LMU)MunichGermany
  2. 2.Schön Klinik Roseneck affiliated with the University of Munich (LMU)PrienGermany

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