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To investigate the association of alcohol intake with mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer and other causes (e.g. accidents, violence, suicide), we performed an analysis of data obtained in a prospective follow-up study conducted in the Netherlands since 1977. Causes of death were defined for a cohort of 1 620 persons (760 men and 860 woman) examined in 1977. During the 10-year follow-up period, 123 (7.6 %) of the participants died. Frequency of alcohol consumption was obtained separately for wine, beer and liquor by means of a questionnaire.

Although no significant association could be established between alcohol consumption and all-cause mortality, all-cause mortality tended to be lower in alcohol consumers compared to abstainers. The age- and sex-adjusted risk estimates of death from CVD were 0.29 (0.11-0.74), 0.46 (0.21-0.96) and 0.32 (0.13-0.77) for subjects with occasional, frequent and daily alcohol use, respectively, compared with those who did not drink at baseline. The mortality risks of never-drinkers and ex-drinkers were similar. A J-shaped relation between alcohol consumption and CVD mortality could not be confirmed in our data but the available information on the amount of alcohol consumed was limited. No significant influence on risk estimates of death from cancer or other causes was found. However, mortality tended to be higher for those who consumed more alcohol. The protective effect of alcohol intake on CVD mortality found in our data persisted after excluding subjects with cardiovascular and other major diseases at baseline from analysis.