During the years 2011–2015, excessive drinking was responsible for an average of 93,296 deaths (255 per day) and 2.7 million years of potential life lost (29 years lost per death, on average) in the United States each year. These findings were reported in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).
Excessive alcohol use is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States and costs the US taxpayers up to $249 billion in a year, from losses in workplace productivity, health care expenditures, and criminal justice. About 40% of these costs are paid by federal, state, and local governments.
Excessive alcohol use means when a person consumes too much alcohol repeatedly. It includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any alcohol use by pregnant women or anyone younger than 21.
Binge drinking means a woman consumes 4 or more drinks on an occasion and a man consumes 5 or more drinks on an occasion.
Heavy drinking is defined as consuming 8 or more drinks per week for a woman or 15 or more drinks per week for a man. In the United States, a standard drink contains 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol.
For this new MMWR, the CDC scientist took data from Alcohol-Related Disease Impact (ARDI) application to see the effects of excessive drinking in United States during 2011-15.
ARDI is an online application that provides national and state estimates of alcohol-related health impacts, including deaths and years of potential life lost (YPLL). The estimates include deaths caused by one’s own excessive drinking (like liver disease) and from others’ drinking (passengers killed in alcohol-related vehicle crashes).
The scientists found out that excessive alcohol use was responsible for approximately 93,000 deaths and 2.7 million YPLL annually in the United States during 2011–2015.
This means that nearly 225 US citizens die from excessive drinking every day, shortening their lives by an average of 29 years.
Most of these deaths were seen in men and approximately four in five deaths involved adults more than ages of 35 years. The number of excessive drinking related deaths among adults aged more than 65 years was nearly double that among adults aged 20–34 years.
Nearly half of these alcohol-attributable deaths were caused by chronic conditions, but all other causes of death were accidents or other factors caused by binge drinking. Binge drinking also accounted for the majority of the YPLL from excessive drinking.
The number of deaths and YPLL from excessive drinking have increased since the last report that detailed the same statistics for years 2006-2010. The number of alcohol-attributable deaths and YPLL in the latest MMWR are slightly higher than previous estimates. This suggest that excessive drinking remains a leading preventable cause of death and disability.
From 2006–2010 to 2011–2015, average annual deaths caused by alcohol dependence increased 14.2%, from 3,728 to 4,258, and deaths caused by alcoholic liver disease increased 23.6%, from 14,695 to 18,164.
These findings are consistent with reported increasing trends in alcohol caused deaths in adults above the age of 25, as well as with increases in per capita alcohol consumption during the past 2 decades.
Alcohol consumption has short-term and long-term ill effects on the health of people.
The short-term risks include; Injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, drownings, and burns, violence, including homicide, suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence, alcohol poisoning, a medical emergency that results from high blood alcohol levels, risky sexual behaviors, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners, and miscarriage and stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) among pregnant women.
The long-term health risks include high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, digestive problems, various cancers, weakened immune system, learning and memory issues, mental health issues, alcohol dependence, and social issues.
The researchers in the new study suggest that to control these negative implications of excessive alcohol consumption effective strategies recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force like increasing alcohol taxes and regulating the number and concentration of alcohol outlets should be used. Implementation of such policies can be used to reduce alcohol-attributable deaths and YPLL.