The number of deaths involving alcohol increased between 2019 and 2020 (from 78 927 to 99 017 [relative change, 25.5%]), as did the age-adjusted rate (from 27.3 to 34.4 per 100 000 [relative change, 25.9%]) (Table). Comparatively, deaths from all causes had smaller relative increases in number (from 2 823 460 to 3 353 547 [18.8%]) and rate (from 938.3 to 1094.3 per 100 000 [16.6%]). Alcohol-related deaths accounted for 2.8% of all deaths in 2019 and 3.0% in 2020.
The Figure presents the number of alcohol-related deaths in 2019 and 2020 by month, with provisional data included for the first 6 months of 2021.
Rates increased for all age groups, with the largest increases occurring for people aged 35 to 44 years (from 22.9 to 32.0 per 100 000 [39.7%]) and 25 to 34 years (from 11.8 to 16.1 per 100 000 [37.0%]). Increases in rates were similar for females (from 13.7 to 17.5 per 100 000 [27.3%]) and males (from 42.1 to 52.6 per 100 000 [25.1%]) (Table).
The number of deaths with an underlying cause of alcohol-associated liver diseases increased from 24 106 to 29 504 (22.4%) and the number of deaths with an underlying cause of alcohol-related mental and behavioral disorders increased from 11 261 to 15 211 (35.1%). Opioid overdose deaths involving alcohol as a contributing cause increased from 8503 to 11 969 (40.8%). Deaths in which alcohol contributed to overdoses specifically on synthetic opioids other than methadone (eg, fentanyl) increased from 6302 to 10 032 (59.2%).
Author(s): Aaron M. White, PhD1; I-Jen P. Castle, PhD1; Patricia A. Powell, PhD1; et al
Traffic deaths decreased in Utah after the state enacted the strictest drunken driving laws in the nation five years ago, new research published Friday by a U.S. government agency shows.
The findings, which pertain to fatalities involving and not involving alcohol, provide initial validation for conservative lawmakers who passed the law over concerns from restaurant and tourism industry lobbyists.
In the study published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, researchers wrote that, in the years after Utah changed the drunken driving threshold from .08% to .05% blood-alcohol content, the number of crashes and fatalities fell even though drivers logged more miles.
“Changing the law to .05% in Utah saved lives and motivated more drivers to take steps to avoid driving impaired,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, the agency’s deputy administrator.
The findings mark a triumph for Utah’s Republican-controlled Legislature, which voted to decrease the legal limit in 2017 over concerns that it would discourage prospective new residents and tourists.
They and other opponents argued it would be ineffective and cement Utah’s pious reputation at the expense of the growing number of visitors and residents who aren’t part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Utah, where about 60% of the population are members of the faith, has long enforced some of the nation’s strictest liquor laws.
Although national figures are not available, admissions for alcoholic liver disease at Keck Hospital of the University of Southern California were up 30% in 2020 compared with 2019, said Dr. Brian Lee, a transplant hepatologist who treats the condition in alcoholics. Specialists at hospitals affiliated with the University of Michigan, Northwestern University, Harvard University and Mount Sinai Health System in New York City said rates of admissions for alcoholic liver disease have leapt by up to 50% since March.
Across these institutions, the age of patients hospitalized for alcoholic liver disease has dropped. A trend toward increased disease in people under 40 “has been alarming for years,” said Dr. Raymond Chung, a hepatologist at Harvard University and president of the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease. “But what we’re seeing now is truly dramatic.”
Maddur has also treated numerous young adults hospitalized with the jaundice and abdominal distension emblematic of the disease — a pattern she attributes to the pandemic-era intensification of economic struggles faced by the demographic. At the same time these young adults may be entering the housing market or starting a family, entry-level employment, particularly in the vast, crippled hospitality industry, is increasingly hard to come by. “They have mouths to feed and bills to pay, but no job,” she said, “so they turn to booze as the last coping mechanism remaining.”