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Study: Alcohol-related deaths double over nearly 20 years; rate soars for females

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Bethesda, MD — Alcohol-related deaths in the United States more than doubled over a recent 19-year period, with the fatality rate for females jumping 85%, results of a recent study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism show.

Researchers analyzed 1999-2017 mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics, looking at alcohol-related deaths by age, sex, race and ethnicity among people 16 and older. 

Overall, nearly 1 million deaths were attributed to alcohol-related causes during the study period. The annual total rose to 72,558 in 2017 from 35,915 in 1999, and the annual rate increased 50.9% – to 25.5 per 100,000 people from 16.9. The rate of alcohol-related deaths among men rose 35%.

Among females, even one alcoholic drink a day can increase the risk of breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, alcohol-use disorder, liver disease and other adverse health effects, according to a Jan. 10 press release from NIAAA.

“Alcohol is a growing women’s health issue,” NIAAA Director George F. Koob said in the release. “The rapid increase in deaths involving alcohol among women is troubling and parallels the increases in alcohol consumption among women over the past few decades.”

Almost half of the alcohol-related deaths in 2017 were the result of liver disease (30.7%) and overdoses from alcohol alone or in combination with other drugs (17.9%). 

The researchers acknowledge, however, that death certificates may not always reflect the contribution of alcohol to someone’s death, meaning the magnitude of alcohol-related mortality is likely worse.

The study was published online Jan. 7 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

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