January 08, 2020
3 min read

Alcohol-related deaths double in US since 1999

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The number of alcohol-related deaths in the United States each year has doubled between 1999 and 2017, and women experienced the greatest annual increase in these deaths, according to data from a study evaluating death certificates published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

“Given evidence that death certicates often do not reect the contribution of alcohol, the magnitude of alcohol-related mortality in the United States is likely much higher than suggested from death certicates alone,” Aaron M. White, PhD, senior scientific advisor to the director at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and colleagues wrote.

White and colleagues collected data from all death certificates filed in the U.S. between 1999 and 2017, excluding those of non-U.S. residents.

Researchers found that the number of alcohol-related deaths per year among people aged 16 years and older doubled from 35,914 in 1999 to 72,558 in 2017.

White AM, et al. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2020;doi:10.1111/acer.14239.

The rate of alcohol-related deaths increased by 50.9%, from 16.9% to 25.5% per 100,000 people.

In 1999, 1.5% of approximately 2.4 million deaths were alcohol-related. This percentage increased to 2.6% of approximately 2.8 million deaths in 2017.

Liver disease was the most common cause of alcohol-related death, accounting for 30.7% (n = 22,245) of these deaths in 2017. The same year, overdoses from alcohol alone or combined with other substances were responsible for 17.9% (n = 12,954) of alcohol-related deaths.

Although most alcohol-related deaths occurred in men (76.4%), women experienced a greater increase — 135.8% — in the number of these deaths over the study period.

When evaluating risk by racial and ethnic groups, White and colleagues found that white women experienced the largest annual growth in alcohol-related deaths, with an annual increase of 4.4%.

“Increases in alcohol use and related harms among women are concerning given growing evidence that women are at greater risk than men at comparable levels of alcohol exposure for alcohol-related cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, alcohol-related liver disease, and acute liver failure due to excessive drinking,” White and colleagues wrote.

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Disclosure: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.