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  • Lauri Beekmann

Sharp rise in alcohol-related liver disease in Iceland over four decades


14.08.2023 - Over the last 40 years, there has been an eightfold increase in the number of Icelanders suffering from alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD), coinciding with a 74% spike in per capita alcohol consumption, reveals a new study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology. This surge in ARLD cases and alcohol consumption was similarly reported in an article from MBL.is.


From 1984 to 2000, an average of 0.77 out of every 100,000 inhabitants was diagnosed with ARLD annually. This number soared to 6.1 per 100,000 between 2016 and 2020. Over the same intervals, alcohol consumption per person amplified from 4.3 litres annually to 7.5 litres, as detailed in the MBL.is article.


Out of the 314 diagnosed with the disease during the study's span, 76% were male, with a median age of 56 years. Additionally, 22% of these patients had alcohol-induced liver inflammation, a statistic emphasised by MBL.is.


Valgerður Rúnarsdóttir, a senior doctor at the Vog Hospital and a key figure behind the study, described the findings as striking in both the research paper and the MBL.is report. "This should serve as an alarm bell for lawmakers and regulators. One serious liver ailment imposes a massive cost on the state, not to mention the severe repercussions for the individual," said Rúnarsdóttir.


An essential revelation from the research, and underscored by MBL.is, is that patients previously diagnosed with alcohol use disorder (AUD) faced more dismal outcomes. Interestingly, those who underwent treatment for AUD *after* an ARLD diagnosis had a better prognosis than those who received treatment *before*.


21,845 individuals were admitted to Vog Hospital during the study's timeline for alcohol-related issues. MBL.is notes that over the last 45 years, 28,000 individuals have been admitted to Vog Hospital for addiction. Of those diagnosed with alcohol-related liver inflammation, 70% underwent AUD treatment during the study period.


Though the study did not specifically delve into alcohol treatment outcomes, Rúnarsdóttir emphasised the need for deeper comprehension. As highlighted by MBL.is, she remarked, "Alcohol has always been our most significant challenge. We observe a noticeable uptick in alcohol addiction and its associated issues."


Both the study and the Icelandic news article accentuate the pressing necessity for effective strategies to curb escalating alcohol consumption and its dire consequences on Iceland's public health.


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