Alcohol Abuse And Early Mortality Rates

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Alcohol Abuse And Early Mortality Rates

Alcohol abuse is the third leading cause of lifestyle related death for Americans, with approximately 88,000 people dying each year from alcohol poisoning, alcohol-induced liver disease, cancer, or by alcohol-related accidents and assaults, among countless of other causes.

To increase awareness of the significance of this number, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began using another measure of total loss from alcohol-related deaths. The Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL) looks at the age of the person at the time of death and through an algorithm, determines the likelihood that person would have lived to the mean age of 65 years. On average, the potential life loss per individual in the United States from alcohol-related illness or injury measures 30 years, or a total YPLL measure of 2.5 million years annually.

More than 44% of the 88,000 lives lost to alcohol were due to chronic conditions or illnesses. Fifty-six percent of the those who died were killed in accidents or physical altercations relating to excessive alcohol consumption, most commonly through auto-related accidents. Nearly three quarters of those who died were men. One in 10 deaths of working-age adults is related to alcohol. Heavy drinkers were twice as likely as moderate drinkers to die from alcohol consumption due to both chronic and acute factors.

These are sobering numbers. But mortality rates can also serve as a mechanism to initiate change among specific subgroups and populations more at risk for alcohol exposure. For example, more than two thirds of those who died from alcohol related illness or accidents were working aged adults. Higher rates of alcohol consumption tend to exist within this subgroup. Focusing on what the trends tell us about when someone is most likely to consume alcohol (or most at risk for starting), as well as other risk factors involved in excessive use of alcohol can serve as a tool in preventing at least some of these unnecessary deaths.

Early Alcohol-Related Mortality Rates On The Rise

Early mortality rates among college age students and younger professionals indicates a higher likelihood of death by alcohol-related accident or injury in this group. The number of deaths annually is 13,873, compared to 13,147 in the older age category. Individuals 35-49 see an enormous jump in deaths related to alcohol-related chronic conditions – 732 deaths annually compared with 7,658 in the older age group.

One of the most at-risk groups facing earlier mortality rates due to alcohol consumption includes 30- to 40-year-old women. Media attention remains focused on college-age drinking. However research shows fewer students are engaging in risky drinking. Instead, binge drinking among young professionals just out of college and women especially indicate a more dire trend leading to increases in early mortality rates among these subgroups.

Further research indicates that even when men and women drink equivalent amounts, women are more prone to alcohol-related diseases than men. The early onset of diseases that lead to fatalities including liver disease, hypertension, and malnutrition was also more common in women.

How Alcohol Is Killing Young People

Among the age groups between 0 and 19 years, deaths by acute conditions including automobile accidents followed by homicides, suicides, and child abuse were highest. Deaths also result from chronic conditions like alcohol-related premature births, low birth weight and birth complications affecting infants specifically.

From ages 20 to 34, alcohol-related acute deaths spike with the majority of deaths related to automobile accidents, followed by homicides, poisoning and suicide. Rates of alcoholic liver disease begin to climb to 295 annually in this age category.

In the 35 to 49 age group, the chronic condition alcoholic liver disease increases to 3,930, surpassing the likelihood of dying from any acute causes. Auto-related accidents also account for 3,536 deaths annually among this age group.

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Perception Of Alcohol’s Health Benefit Backfiring

Alcohol is linked to more than 300 chronic illnesses and acute conditions that put people at higher risk of death. Popular media portrayals of alcohol often lure people into a false sense of security, such as a glass of wine with dinner each night has some kind of health benefit. In reality, the health benefits of wine or alcohol have long been debated. Some evidence does support small amounts of alcohol may reduce cardiovascular disease. However, these health benefits are short-lived when someone consumes more than those rates mentioned in the studies.

When someone drinks a glass of wine with dinner each night, whether or not they will see health benefits or risks involves many factors including genetics, body weight, gender and liver health. Alcohol is not easily digested by the liver, creating strain on this vital organ. Moreover, it can only process a very small amount of alcohol in a given time, meaning that glass of wine with dinner may not have the good health affects someone is seeking.

Recent articles citing dubious evidence to support the claim that drinking in moderation while pregnant is safe have been immediately discounted by organizations like the National Institutes of Health (NIH). They reference a multitude of longitudinal studies indicating there is no guaranteed safe level of alcohol consumption known without some impact on developing fetuses. The widespread anecdotal evidence spread by media portrayals of the 30-something pregnant woman enjoying a glass of wine are misleading and may even contribute to the high mortality rates among this age group.

How to Prevent Youth Mortality Rates

The best way to prevent early death by chronic or acute alcohol-related conditions is education to counter misleading media portrayals. For those who are already suffering with problem drinking or a substance use disorder, matching those individuals with evidence-based care best suited to their individual needs is a critical component to their long-term success.

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Contact for more is your connection to the professional support and evidence-based, comprehensive treatment plan that will help you in your recovery from alcohol addiction or problem drinking. Call and speak with someone in confidence about the care you need and deserve to reclaim your path forward. Your recovery begins today.

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