Three times more alcohol-related deaths in France than in the United States?

Three times more alcohol-related deaths in France than in the United States?
Three times more alcohol-related deaths in France than in the United States?

MORTALITY – US health authorities are warning of the sharp rise in alcohol-related deaths in recent decades. In France, the trend is the opposite. But the number of alcohol-related deaths is proportionately much higher.

Thomas Deszpot – 2021-06-05T17:58:55.362+02:00

“America has a problem with alcohol”. Here is the unambiguous title of an article published in recent days by the magazine The Atlantic. A publication that is based on worrying data collected by health authorities across the Atlantic, highlighting a significant increase in alcohol consumption in the population and the mortality associated with it.

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Going largely unnoticed in France, this data was highlighted by a journalist on social networks. Wishing to denounce the influence of alcohol lobbies in France, she made a comparison with figures relating to France. It ensures that they are proportionally almost three times higher in our country (41,000 deaths for 67 million inhabitants, against 71,000 for 328 million inhabitants). If the dynamics observed between the two countries differ very widely, this parallel is correct.

France is starting from afar

Taking a look at the WHO data shows that in volume of pure alcohol consumed per year, the French are above the Americans with 12.6 liters per year and per person over 15 years old, against 9 , 8 across the Atlantic. However, it should be quickly noted that the types of alcohol consumed vary very markedly. When we drink a majority (59%) of wine, beer (47%) is popular in the United States.

The figure of 70,000 deaths per year put forward by The Atlantic is easy to find and confirm. It comes from a publication of the United States National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), dated January. The data show 72,558 deaths to be exact in 2017. What about the some 41,000 deaths in France put in parallel? Here again, a detour to official sources allows us to find its origin. This estimate comes from a weekly epidemiological bulletin of Public Health France dated February 19, 2019. A finding made for the year 2015 and which led the agency to conclude that alcohol was the second cause of so-called “avoidable” death in our country.

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Twice as many deaths in 20 years in the USA

A few brief calculations are then necessary to relate these deaths to the total population of the two countries. They highlight a proportion of deaths almost 3 times higher (2.85) in France. The United States, if it had the same alcohol-related mortality as ours, would record just over 200,000 deaths each year from this cause. If we look at WHO reports, we also learn that the proportion of alcohol-related deaths among all causes of death is logically higher in France than it is elsewhere. Atlantic (5.9% against 4.8%). However, these figures remain quite low compared to those observed in Russia (21.6% of deaths attributable to alcohol), Lithuania (24.5%) or Ukraine (20.5%). In general, we drink (and die of it) more in Europe and Eastern Europe than elsewhere in the world, even if the Old Continent is one of the rare territories where we observe a decrease in volumes. consumed.

The volumes, precisely, are to be taken into account. If France has higher mortality data than the United States, our country is in a totally different dynamic. When the number of deaths has doubled in less than 20 years on the American side, the indicators show on the contrary a decline in France. Santé Publique France has highlighted a constant drop in consumption since 1960, despite still high levels. While 87% of 18-75 year olds consume alcohol at least once a year, a figure much higher than in a majority of countries, the trend is more worrying in the United States. At the start of the year, when he presented the latest data available, the director of the NIAAA expressed his concern: he hoped that the agency’s report would constitute “a warning signal on the growing threat that alcohol represents for public health”, while the United States deplored “only” 35,914 deaths due to alcohol in 1999.

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