Nov 5, 2022 - Health

Deaths caused by alcohol spiked during pandemic

Illustration of a sad man sitting inside of an empty beer bottle.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Deaths caused by alcohol increased 26% during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday shows.

The big picture: That’s the highest rate recorded in at least 40 years, the study’s lead author, Merianne Spencer, said per AP.

By the numbers: After annual increases of 7% or less between 2000 and 2018, the overall rate of alcohol-induced deaths increased 26% from 2019 to 2020, according to the CDC.

  • Increases in rates occurred across nearly all age groups.
  • Rates for men, however, were two to four times higher than those for females across all age groups.

Details: The increase in rates from 2019 to 2020 were driven largely by deaths from alcoholic liver disease and mental and behavioral disorders due to use of alcohol, according to the CDC.

  • Deaths from mental and behavioral disorders due to use of alcohol increased 33%, while deaths from alcoholic liver disease rose 23% and those from accidental alcohol poisoning went up 14%.
  • Rates of death from alcoholic cardiomyopathy, meanwhile, did not change significantly.

Between the lines: The CDC said recent studies on alcohol-associated liver disease and the COVID-19 pandemic have reported several factors that support their findings.

  • Those factors include alcohol consumption worsening COVID-19-induced inflammation, increased risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes among patients with chronic liver disease, delays or avoidance in seeking medical attention, and reduced access to care, such as for liver transplants, per the agency.

Zoom out: Alcohol consumption in the U.S. was already increasing before the pandemic.

  • But deaths may have increased since the pandemic started for several reasons, including that people with alcohol-related illnesses may have had more trouble accessing medical care, AP reports.
Go deeper