Axios – The number of deaths in the U.S. from alcohol-related causes surged during the first year of the pandemic, rising 25% from 2019 to 2020.
Alcohol-related deaths in 2020 outnumbered COVID-19 deaths among adults younger than 65, the New York Times notes.
Approximately 74,408 Americans ages 16 to 64 died of alcohol-related causes, compared to 74,075 individuals under 65 who died of COVID. [Data: JAMA Network]
Pandemic-induced stress and delayed treatment contributed to the spike in deaths, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“Added stress is a key factor in relapse for people in recovery from alcohol and other substance use disorders,” Aaron White, the report’s first author and a senior scientific adviser at the alcohol abuse institute, wrote in a statement to Axios.
Alcohol-related liver disease was the top underlying factor for a spike in deaths, followed by overdoses from alcohol, along with overdoses of other drugs where alcohol was involved … read more.
Alcohol-Related Deaths During the COVID-19 Pandemic
JAMA, March 18, 2022 | Aaron M. White, PhD; I-Jen P. Castle, PhD; Patricia A. Powell, PhD; Ralph W. Hingson, ScD; George F. Koob, PhD
The number and rate of alcohol-related deaths increased approximately 25% between 2019 and 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rates increased prior to the pandemic, but less rapidly (2.2% mean annual percent change between 1999 and 2017). The rate increase for alcohol-related deaths in 2020 outpaced the increase in all-cause mortality, which was 16.6%.
Previous reports suggest the number of opioid overdose deaths increased 38% in 2020, with a 55% increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. There were similar increases in the number of deaths in which alcohol contributed to overdoses of opioids (40.8%) and, specifically, synthetic opioids (59.2%).
Deaths involving alcohol reflect hidden tolls of the pandemic. Increased drinking to cope with pandemic-related stressors, shifting alcohol policies, and disrupted treatment access are all possible contributing factors.
Whether alcohol-related deaths will decline as the pandemic wanes, and whether policy changes could help reduce such deaths, warrants consideration.
Study limitations include inaccurate death certificates, such as underreporting of alcohol involvement, and unclear causal relationships among listed causes of deaths. Provisional data are subject to change when more death certificates are processed … read more.