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Collaborative Action Needed to Address Increasing Rates of Alcohol-Associated Deaths

COVID-19 saw an increase in alcohol use and alcohol-related consequences. In a recent report, the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) examined the number of deaths associated with excessive alcohol use in 2016-17 compared to 2020-21. There was a 29% increase in deaths attributed to alcohol between these two periods, this equates to an additional 38 to 48 deaths per 100,000 annually. When examined by biological sex, there was a 35% increase in deaths for women and a 27% increase for men. However, death rates remain higher among men (66.9 deaths per 100,000) compared to women (29.4 deaths per 100,000). Alcohol-related deaths increased across all age groups. In total, there were approximately 138,000 deaths attributable to alcohol in 2016-17 but 178,000 deaths attributable to alcohol in 2020-21 – an increase of 40,000 deaths.

Increased alcohol-related deaths seem to be related to changes in drinking patterns during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, alcohol delivery services increased, and liquor stores were deemed essential business, remaining open during lockdowns. Further, there were shifts such as increased loneliness, social isolation, and increased rates of mental health symptoms that could have contributed to increased alcohol consumption. To combat increasing deaths associated with excessive alcohol use, there needs to be changes in policy such as decreasing the density of alcohol outlets, increasing alcohol taxes, and increasing screenings for alcohol use and mental health conditions in health care settings. It seems imperative that addiction researchers, people in recovery, practitioners, family members and policy makers collaborate to engage in collaborative proactive action to creative solutions that can impact the quality of life and years lived for many in our society.

To access the full report, follow this link: Deaths from Excessive Alcohol Use — United States, 2016–2021 | MMWR (cdc.gov)

Esser MB, Sherk A, Liu Y, Naimi TS. Deaths from Excessive Alcohol Use — United States, 2016–2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2024;73:154–161. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7308a1