self-help handsThe present study aimed to determine whether alcoholics who attend self-help groups experience fewer deaths than those who do not.

Subjects were patients from the Alcoholism Treatment Program (ATP) of Matsuzawa hospital.

A cohort of alcoholic patients recruited into a prospective study was followed from April 1994 to March 1999. A total of 469 alcoholic patients met the International Classification of Diseases (10th edition) criteria for alcohol dependency. Of these, 94 patients refused to participate in the study, leaving a total of 375 participants.

After discharge from the ATP and a complete explanation of the present study, subjects decided whether to attend a self-help group (SHG) or not.

The SHG comprised 208 subjects, and the non-self-help group (NSHG) comprised 167 subjects. Outcomes were evaluated with regard to death during follow-up for a mean of 2.4 years. Death was ascertained through the records of the Setagaya Department of Health and Welfare center, Matsuzawa hospital and other hospitals, and through personal contact with informants, relatives, and significant others of subjects.

Deaths were confirmed for 47 NSHG subjects and only five SHG subjects. NSHG displayed a significantly decreased cumulative survival compared with SHG (P < 0.0001). Cox proportion hazard analysis was used to examine variables that may help to predict mortality among alcoholics.

Alcoholics who attended self-help groups differed from those who did not, with regard to mortality experience.

Attending a self-help group represented the most important predictor of prognosis for alcoholics.

Self-help groups reduce mortality risk: A 5-year follow-up study of alcoholics in the Tokyo metropolitan area; Ichiro Masudomi, Kunihiro Isse, Makoto Uchiyama, And Hirohumi Watanabe, Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences (2004), 58, 551–557