Alcoholism can not just ruin your life, it can shorten it - an average of 7.6 years shoter for those hospitalized compared to hospital patients without it, according to patient data from various general hospitals in Manchester, England.

The long-term observational study included a 12.5-year period. The researchers analyzed co-morbid physical illnesses of 23,371 hospital patients with alcohol dependence and compared them with those of a control group of 233,710 randomly selected patients without alcoholism. 

"During the observation period, approximately one out of five hospital patients with alcoholism died in one of the hospitals, while only one out of twelve patients in the control group died," said Prof. Dr. Reinhard Heun from the Royal Derby Hospital in England

27 concomitant illnesses occur more frequently with alcohol addiction

A total of 27 physical illnesses occur more often in patients with alcohol addiction: the liver, the pancreas, the airways, the gastrointestinal tract and the nervous system. In contrast to this, heart attacks, cardiovascular disease and cataracts, for instance, occurred less frequently in patients with alcoholism than in the control group. "Patients with addiction problems are often admitted to hospitals as emergency cases. At the time of diagnosis, priority is then given to the acute symptoms - this may contribute to the fact that not all physical illnesses are recorded," according to Dr. Dieter Schoepf from the Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy of the University of Bonn Hospital.

Reduced pain sensations and perception disorders of addicted persons can also cause certain conditions to not be detected by doctors. 

The large number of patients included and the comprehensive control group enabled a sophisticated assessment, they believe, because it was possible to record illnesses for which symptoms develop gradually. Using data from Great Britain meant easier access to the necessary information. "The results indeed relate to general hospitals in Manchester, however they are representative because of the large numbers of random samples and can therefore be transferred to other general hospitals in other countries," says Schoepf.

Citation: Alcohol dependence and physical comorbidity: Increased prevalence but reduced relevance of individual comorbidities for hospital-based mortality during a 12.5-year observation period in general hospital admissions in urban North-West England, Journal European Psychiatry, DOI:10.1016/j.eurpsy.2015.03.001