Grim news for alcoholics:
Some studies have found a nearly five-fold greater risk of death for alcoholics compared to people without drinking problems, Timko and her colleagues note in the medical journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. However, it’s not clear whether getting help early might reduce this risk.
To investigate, the team followed up on 628 people who had entered treatment 16 years previously.
Sixty-eight percent had died of alcohol-related causes in that time. Overall, the researchers found, study participants were 40% more likely to die over the course of follow-up than would have been expected in the general population.
Older people, those with more symptoms of alcohol dependence, and those who were unmarried had an even greater mortality risk.
But, there’s good news for those who stick with treatment:
Among those who were not drinking one year after they started treatment, the likelihood of dying was much lower, the researchers found. Risk of death also was reduced for those who spent eight weeks or longer in outpatient treatment during that year and also did not have drinking problems at one year. Spending more than four months attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, along with better drinking outcomes at one year, also cut death risk.