One Out of Every 10 Adult Deaths Is from Excessive Drinking

By Paul Gaita 07/01/14

It should come as no surprise that alcohol is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published startling news about the impact of alcohol upon not only the health of American adults but also the country as a whole: one out of every ten adult deaths (between ages 20-64) is a result of excessive drinking, with a cost to the country reaching approximately $224 billion a year.

In a report published in the CDC’s Preventing Chronic Disease, researchers analyzed estimated data culled on alcohol-attributable deaths and years of potential life lost in the United States between 2006 and 2010 to determine how many deaths were due to excessive drinking. For the purposes of the report, excessive drinking was defined as binge drinking – four drinks per single occasion for women and five drinks per single occasion for men – while heavy alcohol consumption was tagged at eight drinks per week for women and 15 per week for men.

The study found that for each of the four years covered by their research, there was an average of 87,798 deaths that were attributable to alcohol, and that these lost lives had been shortened by an average of 30 years. Two out of every three alcohol-related deaths happened to working-age adults, or those between the ages of 20 and 64, while 5% of all alcohol-attributable deaths happened to people under 21 years of age.

Though death rates varied by state – New Mexico had the highest rate with an average of 51.2 deaths per 100,000 individuals – the national average was 27.9 deaths per 100,000 people, which is higher than the annual death rates for 10 of the 15 leading causes of death, including suicide, diabetes, and kidney disease. Over half of these deaths were acute deaths caused by short-term circumstances like motor vehicle accidents or alcohol poisoning.

The loss of so many working age adults had a deleterious impact upon the economy: 72% of the estimated $223.5 billion lost in 2006 was the direct result of alcohol-attributable deaths or reduced earnings by excessive drinkers. The CDC’s report came on the heels of similar findings filed by the World Health Organization, which reported in 2012 that 3.3 million deaths worldwide were caused by harmful use of alcohol.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.