Background: Alcohol-related deaths may be among the most important reasons for the shorter life expectancy of people with depression, yet no study has quantified their contribution. We quantify the contribution of alcohol-related deaths to the life-expectancy gap in depression in four European countries with differing levels of alcohol-related mortality. Methods: We used cohort data linking population registers with health-care and death records from Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Turin, Italy, in 1993-2007 (210,412,097 person years, 3046,754 deaths). We identified psychiatric inpatients with depression from hospital discharge registers in Denmark, Finland, and Sweden and outpatients with antidepressant prescriptions from prescription registers in Finland and Turin. We assessed alcohol-related and non-alcohol-related deaths using both underlying and contributory causes of death, stratified by sex, age and depression status. We quantified the contribution of alcohol-related deaths by cause-of-death decomposition of the life-expectancy gap at age 25 between people with and without depression. Results: The gap in life expectancy was 13.1-18.6 years between people with and without inpatient treatment for depression and 6.7-9.1 years between those with and without antidepressant treatment. The contribution of alcohol-related deaths to the life-expectancy gap was larger in Denmark (33.6%) and Finland (18.1-30.5%) - i.e., countries with high overall alcohol-related mortality - than in Sweden (11.9%) and Turin (3.2%), and larger among men in all countries. The life-expectancy gap due to other than alcohol-related deaths varied little across countries. Conclusions: Alcohol contributes heavily to the lower life expectancy in depression particularly among men and in countries with high overall alcohol-related mortality.
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