A new study published recently in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research says that alcohol-related deaths have doubled in the U.S. between 1999 and 2017.
In reviewing death certificates for that period, researchers determined that the number of alcohol-related deaths increased 50.9%, from 16.9 to 25.5 per 100,000. Or, in real terms, there were 35,914 alcohol-related deaths in 1999. The number grew to 72,558 in 2017. This means that alcohol accounted for nearly 1 million American deaths over the 18-year span.
Here are additional facts from the study:
- Half of the deaths are from liver disease or an overdose from alcohol or a combination of alcohol and drugs.
- Men died at a higher rate than women.
- The largest annual increase in deaths was among non-Hispanic white women.
- Rates of death increased more for people between 55 and 64.
- Rates of death were higher among non-Hispanic American Indians and Alaska natives
- Americans are drinking more. Per capita consumption is up about 8% since the turn of the century. Binge drinking is also up, by 7.7%.
- About 70% of adults report drinking at least two drinks per day-putting them in the “heavy drinker” category by U.S. standards.
- Alcohol-related injuries are also up significantly. Between 2006 and 2014, the rate of people admitted to the ER due to alcohol increased by 47.3%.
What’s particularly disturbing, according to the study, is that deaths related to alcohol are significantly undercounted. While death certificates are the best way to track deaths in the U.S., the certificates often fail to capture the role alcohol plays in deaths. For example, studies have shown that only about one in six drunk driving deaths are actually reported as alcohol-related.
In commenting on the study, Dr. Elliot Tapper, Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, cites three factors contributing to the significant increase in alcohol-related deaths:
- High levels of obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes, makes alcohol consumption much more dangerous.
- People are drinking stronger drinks. The popularity of drinks that are sweetened and have a higher percentage of alcohol has led to higher levels of drinking, especially among younger people.
- Cultural factors, especially related to the economy since 2008. Changes in people’s socioeconomic situation has been tied to increases in binge drinking.
If you, or you know of someone who is concerned about their drinking, the Addiction Services Council maintains a 24/7 Help Hotline: 513.281.7880
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