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Using Death Certificates to Explore Changes in Alcohol Related Mortality in the United States, 1999 to 2017

Research has shown that alcohol consumption has increased since the beginning of the new millennium and binge drinking in young adults specifically has increased 7.7%. With more alcohol consumption, there has also been an increase in alcohol-related harms including emergency department visits and hospitalizations. The current study took data from death certificates from 1999-2017 to study alcohol-related deaths.

Death certificates were obtained from all 50 states including the District of Columbia and deaths of non-U.S. residents were excluded. They identified alcohol-related deaths that included acute and chronic cases. Chronic alcohol-related deaths were associated with chronic alcohol consumption and included diagnoses such as alcoholic liver disease. They split underlying causes of death into 15 categories including alcohol overs dose, alcoholic liver diseases, motor vehicle traffic injuries, etc. The data showed there were 72,558 alcohol-related deaths in 2017 compared to 35,914 in 1999. Males included 76.4% of the deaths and there was a greater increase of deaths observed for females.

In 2017, there were 2,358 deaths from overdoses on alcohol alone and 10,596 deaths from multidrug overdose. The data showed that almost 9 out of every 10 alcohol related deaths among young adults aged 16-20 were from acute alcohol consumption. A somewhat surprising finding was that deaths from chronic alcohol use increased most for the 25-34 year age group. This data gives important insight into the affect that acute and chronic alcohol consumption has on the American population. As the alcohol-related deaths have doubled from 1999-2017, there should be a focus on alcohol prevention and interventions for young adult college students. Acute alcohol consumption poses the highest risk for the young adult age group and education should be provided on the dangers and consequences of alcohol and drug misuse.

Take Away: Research has shown that alcohol consumption has increased since the beginning of the new millennium creating an increase in alcohol-related harms. The current study took data from death certificates from 1999-2017 to study alcohol-related deaths. Death certificates were obtained from all 50 states including the District of Columbia and researchers identified alcohol-related deaths including acute and chronic cases. They found alcohol-related deaths doubled from 1999-2017 with males representing 76.4% of these deaths. The data showed that almost 9 out of every 10 alcohol related deaths among young adults were from acute alcohol consumption. Acute alcohol consumption poses the highest risk for the young adult age group and education should be provided on the dangers and consequences of alcohol and drug misuse.

White, A. M., Castle, I. J. P., Hingson, R. W., & Powell, P. A. (2020). Using Death Certificates to Explore Changes in Alcohol‐Related Mortality in the United States, 1999 to 2017. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. doi: 10.1111/acer.14239

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