Alcohol-Related Deaths Increasing in U.S.


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...

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