To estimate the life expectancy and specify the causes of death among people with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).
Included were all patients recorded in Alberta provincial databases of inpatients, outpatients, or practitioner claims from 2003 to 2012. People with FAS were identified by ICD-9 code 760.71 and ICD-10 codes Q86.0 and P04.3, and were linked to the Vital Statistics Death Registry to get information about mortality. Life expectancy was estimated by using the life table template developed in the United Kingdom, which is recommended for estimating life expectancy in small areas or populations.
The life expectancy at birth of people with FAS was 34 years (95% confidence interval: 31 to 37 years), which was about 42% of that of the general population. The leading causes of death for people with FAS were “external causes” (44%), which include suicide (15%), accidents (14%), poisoning by illegal drugs or alcohol (7%), and other external causes (7%). Other common causes of death were diseases of the nervous and respiratory systems (8% each), diseases of the digestive system (7%), congenital malformations (7%), mental and behavioural disorders (4%), and diseases of the circulatory system (4%).
The life expectancy of people with FAS is considerably lower than that of the general population. As the cause of FAS is known and preventable, more attention devoted to the prevention of FAS is urgently needed.