U.S Alcohol-related deaths double over the last 20 years

Mar 11, 2020

According to the results of a new study carried out by researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcohol consumption and the rate of alcohol-associated harms is on the rise in the United States. The study also showed that the number of alcohol-related hospitalizations, and death rates, are on the rise. The factors identified as contributing to alcohol-related morbidity and mortality vary from overdoses and liver disease to falls.  

In addition, other research published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research has shown that in the last 20 years, alcohol consumption has significantly increased in the U.S. In 2017, approximately 70% of the U.S. population aged 18 years and older reported consuming alcohol that year. According to the results of this study, each person consumed about 2.1 standard drinks per day, and the number of alcohol-related hospital visits increased by 76.3% for individuals aged 12 and older. The number of alcohol-associated emergency department visits increased by 47% between 2006 and 2014.

Importantly, the largest increases in alcohol consumption and binge drinking were observed among women. According to study results, there was a 10.1% increase in the number of women who consumed alcohol between 2000 and 2016, as well as a 23.3% increase in binge drinking among women over this period.

“The rapid increase in deaths involving alcohol among women is troubling and parallels the increases in alcohol consumption among women over the past few decades… [The report] is a wake-up call to the growing threat alcohol poses to public health,”

Dr. George F. Koob, director of NIAAA.

After considering the increases in alcohol consumption and associated medical intervention, the researchers — all of whom work for the NIAAA — set out to investigate whether alcohol-related deaths were similarly on the rise.

Analysis of all death certificates created in the U.S. between 1999 and 2017 demonstrated that the number of deaths associated with alcohol has more than doubled within this period. The data demonstrate that in 1999, there were only 35,914 alcohol-related deaths but by 2017, this number had increased to 72,558.

Moreover, in 2017, nearly one-third of these deaths had resulted from liver disease, and almost one-fifth of them had resulted from overdoses of alcohol alone or combined with drugs. The results also showed that individuals aged 45–74 years experienced the highest rate of alcohol-related death, with the most significant increase in individuals aged 25–34. Finally, every age group examined, with the exception of individuals aged 16–20 and 75 or over, experienced an increase.

The data also revealed that increases in alcohol-related deaths were significantly higher among women than men, with an 85.3% rise compared to a 38.7% rise among men.