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Living alone substantially increases a person’s risk of dying from alcohol-related causes, a new study from Finland has found. The researchers say it is impossible to tell whether living alone is a cause or a consequence of alcohol abuse. They note their findings suggest that people who live alone are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of the increased availability of alcohol.

The study found that of the 18,200 people who died of alcohol-related causes over a six-year period in Finland, two-thirds lived alone, MSNBC reports.

Between 2000 and 2003, men living alone were 3.7 times more likely to die of liver disease than married men or men who lived with someone. Between 2004 and 2007, they were 4.9 times more likely to die of liver disease, the researchers report in PLoS Medicine.

Women who lived alone were 1.7 times as likely to die of liver disease between 2000 and 2003, and 2.4 times as likely between 2004 and 2007, compared with women who lived with someone.

The risk of dying from alcohol-related causes increased starting in 2004, because there was a reduction in the price of alcohol that year, the researchers note.

Loneliness has long been recognized as both a contributor to and a consequence of alcohol abuse, the researchers say. But until now there have not been any large, population-based studies on the association between living alone and alcohol-related death.

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