According to a new study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, the number of alcohol-related deaths seems to have doubled in the last twenty years.
The researchers collected mortality data from death certificates filed in the U.S., analyzing trends from 1999 to 2017. In 1999, the number of those deaths was 35,914; by 2017, that number rose to 72,558. In the approximately twenty-year time period, they noted almost 1 million alcohol-related deaths for those over the age of 16.
Through the study, they found that the trends for per capita consumption, prevalence of alcohol use, and even binge-drinking all increased since the beginning of the new millennium. During the studied decades, the rates of emergency room visits and hospitalization went up by close to 50% across various periods. With such an overall upward trend, it is not surprising then to note that alcohol-related harm has increased.
In cases where death is linked to a cause such as alcohol-related liver cirrhosis, it becomes a bit easier to see the trend. However, the study is quick to address that “[t]he full magnitude of alcohol-related mortality in the United States is difficult to determine, in part because the contribution of alcohol is not always apparent at the time that a death certificate is completed.”
Not only that, the study also emphasized that while the calculations used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to obtain the estimated numbers of alcohol deaths are consistent, they are based on “research published prior to the year 2000 and have not been updated to reflect current alcohol consumption data and new knowledge about the contribution of alcohol to deaths from various injuries and disease states.”
While these numbers may not be as accurate as we hope, it is more likely that the actual numbers are even higher if the calculations were updated. The statistics tell us that alcohol consumption has become a huge issue in modern society. While there is no avoiding the fact that we need to start taking measures to try and lessen our love of drink, I am also very interested in knowing if part of the issue has to do with our longer lifespans.
Does the increased probability of having an alcohol-related health issue come truly from the frequency of which we imbibe, or does this trend actually come from the fact that we used to die from disease or other illness before the alcohol ran its course?