Alcohol-Related Deaths in the US Have Doubled Since the Turn of the Millennium

The annual number of American deaths from alcohol-related problems more than doubled between 1999 and 2017.  According to a new study, this estimate may actually be lower than the actual rate. 

For this study, researchers from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism analyzed data collected from death certificates published between 1999 and 2017.  The analysis determined the number of alcohol-related deaths grew nearly 51 percent: from 16.9 to 25.5 per 100,000 in that time frame.  Specifically, the researchers noted 35,914 deaths were reported in 1999 and 72,558  deaths were reported in 2017.  This is equivalent to about 1 million Americans.  Furthermore, 2.6 percent of the roughly 2.8 million deaths in the US were alcohol related in 2017.

The analysis breaks down further to suggest that approximately half of these alcohol-related deaths were fro liver disease or from an immediate overdose from alcohol (or alcohol mixed with other drugs).  The data also points out men die from alcohol-related issues at a higher rate than women; but the biggest annual increase in alcohol-related deaths was actually among non-Hispanic white women. On top of that, the death rate also grew more among people between the ages of 55 and 64; the highest consistent rates were among non-Hispanic American Indians and natives to Alaska. 

Of course, the other side of this data is drinking frequency in the United States.  Per capita, for example, alcohol consumption is up 8 percent since 2000; binge drinking is also up about 7.7 percent.  Data also shows that 70 percent of the adult population reported drinking in 2017, with an average just north of two drinks per day.  According to US health standards, this indicates a significant number of American adults are “heavy drinkers.”

At the end of the day, the study authors conclude, “Given previous reports that death certificates often fail to indicate the contribution of alcohol, the scope of alcohol-related mortality in the United States is likely higher than suggested from death certificates alone. Findings confirm an increasing burden of alcohol on public health and support the need for improving surveillance of alcohol-involved mortality.”