Liver Disease On The Rise, Especially Among Young Adults

By Beth Leipholtz 07/23/18

A new study found that cirrhosis-related deaths in the US increased 65% between 1999 and 2016. 

woman holding her liver

According to a new study, alcohol is to blame for an increase in fatal cirrhosis cases in young adults in recent years. 

Researchers at the University of Michigan discovered that between 2009 and 2016, those in the 25 to 34 age group saw greater than a 10% increase in deaths as a result of cirrhosis.

According to USA Today, cirrhosis is an “irreversible scarring of the liver.” Researchers claim the cases were "driven entirely” by liver disease due to excessive alcohol consumption. 

Additionally, the study found that overall cirrhosis-related deaths in the U.S. increased 65% between 1999 and 2016. Researchers came to this conclusion through examining public data on deaths from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Elliot Tapper, the study’s lead author and a liver specialist at the University of Michigan, tells the Washington Post that those who consume multiple drinks per night or have numerous nights of binge drinking are more at risk for life-threatening cirrhosis. He also states that women tend to be more susceptible to liver damage.

Tapper adds that if those with an alcohol-related disease cease drinking, it’s possible the liver could repair itself.

"Many other organs have the ability to regenerate to some degree, but none have the same capacity as the liver," he told the Post

Jessica Mellinger, a clinical lecturer at the University of Michigan, tells the Post that the beginning stages of cirrhosis involve yellowing skin, jaundice and a swollen abdominal area. She adds that patients often say the symptoms came on “all of a sudden.” Down the line, the disease can lead to brain injury, severe bleeding and kidney failure. 

In addition to the rise in cirrhosis among younger age groups, the study also found that men are twice as likely as women to die from liver cancer.

Additionally, race and geographical location played a role. Researchers found that whites, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans are seeing increasing rates of cirrhosis, as are those in Kentucky, Arkansas and New Mexico. 

Another report earlier this month is also in line with these findings. According to U.S. News, the CDC recently released a report stating that age-adjusted rates for cancer of the liver rose from 2000 through 2016 for men and women, and that it moved from the ninth leading cause of death in 2000, to the sixth in 2016.

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.