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Record number of alcohol-related deaths in Finland last year
Middle-aged men most at risk
Figures on causes of death in Finland released on Monday indicate that a record number of 1,860 Finns died last year of alcohol poisoning, or diseases related to the consumption of alcohol.
The number of alcohol-related deaths has gradually grown during the past two decades, especially among the working-age population. Last year the number of alcohol-related deaths surged considerably, rising by about 20% over the previous year.
Alcohol-related deaths typically affect men, and especially middle-aged men. Only one in five deaths related to drinking involved a women. Alcohol consumption was involved in the deaths of one in three men who died between the ages of 45 and 49.
One third of drinking-related deaths involved alcohol poisoning, and the rest were diseases caused by alcohol consumption.
The National Public Health Institute says that alcohol consumption has increased considerably since the tax on alcoholic beverages was brought down in March last year.
Last year, per capita consumption in terms of 100% alcohol in Finland was 10.3 litres, representing an increase of nearly a litre over the previous year.
The increase in alcohol-related deaths is linked with the increase in consumption, says Professor Kalervo Kiianmaa of the alcohol research unit of the National Public Health Institute. "The increase in consumption inevitably means an increase in harm", he says.
It usually takes years of drinking for deadly alcohol-related diseases to develop. Nevertheless, Kiianmaa believes that in some cases, last year's surge in consumption could have hastened the onset of cirrhosis of the liver, and other diseases that had already been developing.
According to the fresh figures of Statistics Finland, alcohol continues to be the second-most common cause of death among both men and women of working age - those aged 15 to 64. The number-one killer among men is cardiovascular disease, and among women it is breast cancer.
The overall death rate among Finnish men of working age is much higher than among women. For instance, last year 1,320 men died of cardiovascular disease, while only 320 women succumbed to breast cancer.
The tsunami in Asia, in which 172 Finns were killed, pushed accidents into the number-three slot in causes of death among Finns.