Nearly 1 in 10 deaths and over 1 in 10 years due to alcohol
Excessive alcohol consumption is a leading cause of premature mortality in the United States. Worldwide, 3.3 million people die every year due to harmful use of alcohol,2 this represent 5.9 % of all deaths, according to the World Health Organization . Alcohol consumption causes death and disability relatively early in life. In the age group 20 – 39 years approximately 25 % of the total deaths are alcohol-attributable.
Excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths per year from 2006 to 2010, and shortened the lives of those who died by about 30 years. These deaths were due to health effects from drinking too much over time, such as breast cancer, liver disease, and heart disease; and health effects from drinking too much in a short period of time, such as violence, alcohol poisoning, and motor vehicle crashes. In total, there were 2.5 million years of potential life lost each year due to excessive alcohol use.
In this new study CDC scientists updated national estimates of alcohol-attributable deaths (AAD) and years of potential life lost (YPLL) in the United States.
The scientist s examined data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Alcohol-Related Disease Impact application for 2006–2010 to estimate total alcohol-attributable death (AAD) and years of potential life lost (YPLL) across 54 conditions for the United States, by sex and age. AAD and YPLL rates and the proportion of total deaths that were attributable to excessive alcohol consumption among working-age adults (20-64 y) were calculated for the United States and for individual states.
The results showed from 2006 through 2010 there was an annual average of 87,798 (27.9/100,000 population) of alcohol-attributable deaths and 2.5 million (831.6/100,000) of years of potential life lost occurred in the United States. Age-adjusted state alcohol-attributable deaths from 51.2/100,000 in New Mexico to 19.1/100,000 in New Jersey.
Among working adults in the United States, 9.8% of all deaths during this period were attributable to excessive drinking, and 69% of all alcohol-attributable deaths involved working-age adults.
Dr. Ursula E. Bauer, PhD, MPH, director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, commented “Excessive alcohol use is a leading cause of preventable death that kills many Americans in the prime of their lives.” “We need to redouble our efforts to implement scientifically proven public health approaches to reduce this tragic loss of life and the huge economic costs that result.”
Dr. Robert Brewer, MD, MSPH, head of CDC’s Alcohol Program and one of the report’s authors, stated “It’s shocking to see the public health impact of excessive drinking on working-age adults,” “CDC is working with partners to support the implementation of strategies for preventing excessive alcohol use that are recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force, which can help reduce the health and social cost of this dangerous risk behavior.”
In their discussion the scientists write “This analysis illustrates the magnitude and variability of the health consequences of excessive alcohol consumption in the United States, and the substantial contribution of excessive drinking to premature mortality among working-age adults. More widespread implementation of interventions recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force (19), including increasing alcohol prices by raising alcohol taxes, enforcing commercial host (dram shop) liability, and regulating alcohol outlet density, could reduce excessive alcohol consumption and the health and economic costs related to it.”
The team acknowledges there were several limitations to this study including data on alcohol consumption used to calculate indirect estimates of AAF are based on self-reports and may underestimate the true prevalence of excessive alcohol consumption because of underreporting by survey respondents and sampling non-coverage.
Excessive drinking includes binge drinking (4 or more drinks on an occasion for women, 5 or more drinks on an occasion for men), heavy drinking (8 or more drinks a week for women, 15 or more drinks a week for men), and any alcohol use by pregnant women or those under the minimum legal drinking age of 21.
For more information about excessive drinking, including binge drinking, and how to prevent this dangerous behavior, visit the CDC’s Alcohol and Public Health website
This study is published in Preventing Chronic Disease.