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Friday, 14 July, 2000, 23:51 GMT 00:51 UK
Alcohol linked to thousands of deaths

Drink is blamed for many suicides, murders and falls
Almost half of all unnatural deaths are related to alcohol, a study has found.

Research carried out by doctors in Sweden suggests that 44% deaths cause by accidents or other events are linked to drinking.

These include deaths from suicide, falls, traffic injuries, asphyxia, intoxication and murder are linked to drinking.

The doctors examined deaths in Sweden over a five-year period. They divided deaths into natural - those that were caused by disease or illness - and unnatural - those that were event-related.

They found that 29% all unnatural deaths were associated with alcohol.

However, they estimated that the figure may be as high as 44% and may be even higher in countries with 'softer' alcohol laws than Sweden.

Dangers and risks

Anders Eriksson, professor of forensic medicine at Sweden's Umea University, said: "The sober person does not take the same risks and, to some extent, can avoid dangers and risks."

He added: "Alcohol also blurs your mind and it is well known that both self-destructive behaviour and aggression towards other people is much higher under the influence of alcohol than during sobriety."

Professor Eriksson said the study showed that alcohol-related deaths did not just concern traffic incidents.

The sober person does not take the same risks

Prof Anders Erikkson, Umea University

"The study demonstrates that alcohol is a problem not only when it comes to drunk driving and traffic deaths, but in a significant number of all unnatural deaths.

"This means that you run a greater risk in almost all aspects when you are under the influence of alcohol."

The Institute of Alcohol Studies, in Cambridgeshire, said: "This goes to show that alcohol is a far wider problem than the government recognises.

"Quite clearly, it raises questions about what on earth the government is doing in not lowering the drink driving limit."

Sue Boon, assistant director of Alcohol Concern, said she was not surprised by the findings.

"It does seem to correlate quite closely with what is going on in the UK. For instance 65% of suicide attempts are linked to alcohol and eight out of 10 people who present themselves at A&E at peak times have had an accident which can be linked with alcohol.

"We are not really surprised and that is why Alcohol Concern is pushing the government to publish a national alcohol strategy to address these problems."

Sue Boon, assistant

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