Alcohol-Related Deaths Rising Nationwide
By David Doolittle

More than 1 million people died from alcohol-related causes over the past 20 years, a new study shows.

The study, in which researchers analyzed all U.S. death certificates from 1999 to 2017, found that the number of alcohol-related deaths more than doubled during that time: from 35,914 to 72,558.

The study was published in this month’s Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. A death was identified as alcohol-related if an alcohol-induced cause was listed as the underlying cause or as a contributing cause. 

Overall, researchers found that men accounted for the majority of alcohol-related deaths (76.4%) from 1999 to 2017; however, women had a significantly higher increase in deaths over the study period (85%) than men (35%).

People ages 45 to 74 had the highest rates of death, but the biggest increases over time were among people ages 25 to 34, the study found.

“Alcohol is not a benign substance and there are many ways it can contribute to mortality,” said George F. Koob, MD, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which produced the study. “The current findings suggest that alcohol-related deaths involving injuries, overdoses, and chronic diseases are increasing across a wide swath of the population. The report is a wakeup call to the growing threat alcohol poses to public health.”

Overall, the percentage of alcohol overdoses increased during the study period (from 2.6% in 1999 to 3.2% in 2017), along with alcohol-related deaths involving heart diseases (10.8% to 11.1%). But percentages of other causes of alcohol-related deaths fell, including vehicle crashes (3.7% to 1.7%), and mental and behavioral disorders (15.5% to 13.9%).

Texas Medical Association policy supports stricter penalties for drunk driving and driving under the influence, along with working to prevent fetal alcohol syndrome.

Last Updated On

February 06, 2020

Originally Published On

February 06, 2020

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David Doolittle


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Dave Doolittle is editor of Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. Dave grew up in Austin, where he attended culinary school as well as the University of Texas. He spent years covering Central Texas for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. He is the father of two girls, a proud Longhorn, and an avid motorsports fan.

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