An analysis of U.S. death certificate data by researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that nearly 1,000,000 people died from alcohol-related causes between 1999-2017. The number of death certificates mentioning alcohol more than doubled from 35,914 in 1999 to 72,558 in 2017, the year in which alcohol played a role in 2.6% of all deaths in the U.S.
The increase in alcohol-related deaths is consistent with reports of spikes in alcohol consumption and alcohol-involved emergency department visits and hospitalizations during the same period.
"Alcohol is not a benign substance and there are many ways it can contribute to modality," says George F. Koob, NIAAA director. "The current findings suggest that alcohol-related deaths involving injuries, overdoses, and chronic diseases are increasing across a wide swath of the population. The report is a wake-up call to the growing threat alcohol poses to public health."
A death was identified as alcohol-related if an alcohol-induced cause was listed as the underlying cause or as a contributing cause of death. The researchers found that, in 2017, nearly half of alcohol-related deaths resulted from liver disease (31%) or overdoses on alcohol alone or with other drugs (18%). People aged 45-74 had the highest rates of deaths related to alcohol, but the biggest increases over time were among people age 25-34.
High rates among middle-aged adults are consistent with recent reports of increases in "deaths of despair," generally defined as those related to overdoses, alcohol-associated liver cirrhosis, and suicides, primarily among non-Hispanic whites. However, the authors report that, by the end of the study period, alcohol-related deaths were increasing among people in almost all age and racial and ethnic groups.
As with increases in alcohol...