Strong beers at Ruoholahti Alko in Helsinki on February 28, 2024. LEHTIKUVA

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A recent report reveals a startling increase in the impact of alcohol on public health in Finland, with over 37,000 life years lost annually due to alcohol-related causes. This new finding highlights the severity of alcohol as a health risk and a leading cause of premature deaths in the country.

The comprehensive study, conducted by FCG Finnish Consulting Group and commissioned by the Finnish Association for Substance Abuse Prevention (EHYT ry), provides an in-depth analysis of both direct and indirect alcohol-related deaths.

This marks the first time such an extensive review has been carried out, encompassing the broader impact of alcohol on life years lost.

According to Statistics Finland's Labour Force Survey, there were 17,000 fewer employed individuals in April 2024 compared to the previous year. Concurrently, the number of unemployed people increased by 41,000 year-on-year. Despite these figures, given the generally weak economic conditions, the overall situation is deemed moderate.

Henna Busk, Senior Economist at Pellervo Economic Research PTT, commented on the employment statistics, noting that the anticipated economic turnaround is not yet evident in the employment figures. "The labor market typically reacts with a delay, so any improvement in employment would be seen only some time after the start of economic growth," Busk explained.

The report also sheds light on regional disparities in life years lost due to alcohol. The most affected areas include Kymenlaakso, North Karelia, and Kainuu, where the loss is significantly higher relative to the population. Specifically, Kymenlaakso experiences 884.2 years lost per 100,000 residents, followed by North Karelia with 808.5 years, and Kainuu with 804.9 years.

The study emphasizes that the commonly cited figures for alcohol-related deaths represent only the tip of the iceberg. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified alcohol as a contributing factor to over 200 diseases and health conditions, which substantially increases the societal burden of disease and premature mortality.

Emma Kajander, Business Director and expert physician at FCG, stated, "When assessing the societal impact of alcohol, it is crucial to consider both direct and indirect alcohol-related deaths. Counting the lost life years, rather than just the number of deaths, provides a more comprehensive picture by considering the age at which the deaths occur."

The report reveals that indirect alcohol deaths contribute to the loss of over 12,500 life years annually. These include deaths from cancers, cardiovascular diseases, and suicides where alcohol was a significant contributing factor.

The loss of life years due to alcohol has profound economic and social implications. These lost years translate to significant economic losses due to reduced workforce participation and productivity, alongside increased healthcare costs.

Juha Mikkonen, Executive Director of EHYT ry, highlighted the necessity of robust alcohol policies to mitigate these losses. "It is essential to consider how premature alcohol-related deaths can be prevented. Effective measures include restricting alcohol availability, adjusting pricing and taxation policies, and limiting marketing. The government should avoid policies that increase the economic and health costs associated with alcohol," Mikkonen urged.

Mikkonen also called for a realistic assessment of the costs of alcohol to society and recommended allocating sufficient resources to create a comprehensive cost analysis.

The findings of this report underscore the urgent need for targeted interventions and comprehensive policy measures to address the significant health and economic burden posed by alcohol in Finland. By implementing effective strategies and fostering greater public awareness, it is possible to reduce the devastating impact of alcohol on individuals and society as a whole.

HT

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