News, Culture & Society

Binge drinking now behind a FIFTH of deaths among adults under 50

Alcohol use is linked to as many as one in five US deaths from all causes, according to an official study — with states in the Plains suffering the highest mortality.

Research led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found there were around 90,000 fatalities among adults aged 20 to 65 per year between 2015-2019 in which booze was an underlying or contributing cause.

Alcohol accounted for 12 per cent of deaths from all causes during the five year period. When reduced to those aged 20 to 49, alcohol made up 20.3 per cent of deaths.

Causes of death attributable to alcohol use include alcoholic liver disease, poisoning, motor vehicle crashes, homicides, cirrhosis and hypertension.

The figures do not include the period of the Covid pandemic, when stacks of studies suggest binge drinking has increased due to boredom and economic troubles.

Alcohol use is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the US. 

New Mexico has the highest alcohol mortality of any state, with 21.7 per cent of deaths in the state among the age group being linked to alcohol abuse. In Alaska and Wyoming, alcohol-related deaths accounted for nearly 20 per cent of deaths in the age group.

Mississippi and Alabama suffer the lowest share of alcohol related deaths, with both states attributing nine per cent of fatalities to the substance.

Separate National Institutes of Health (NIH) data indicates a quarter of American adults have engaged in binge drinking in the past month.

The CDC researchers, who published their findings Tuesday in JAMA Network Open, gathered national data from January 2015 to December 2019.

In total, there are 58 causes of death that could be tied to alcohol, including chronic conditions fatty liver disease and cirrhosis, cancers, car accidents.

Alcohol accounts for a bigger share of deaths among young people as they are both more likely to take part in risky drinking behaviors while also being less likely to die of many other common causes.

The CDC reports that nearly a quarter of Americans between 25 and 34 binge drink. 

The study found that each year around 20,000 people between ages 20 and 34 die because of excessive alcohol use, accounting for more than one in four total deaths in the age group. 

Meanwhile, alcohol abuse accounts for 17.5 per cent of deaths for people 35 to 49, or 25,199 deaths per year.

Just under 10 percent of deaths for people aged 50 to 64 were related to drinking – or 45,000 total.

Dr Patricia Molina, director of the Louisiana State University Alcohol and Drug Abuse Center of Excellence who was not involved in the study, told that she was not surprised by these findings.

‘The results from this study are not shocking, though some may consider them as a rude awakening,’ she wrote in an email.

‘Alcohol consumption at this level has been scientifically demonstrated to lead to increased risk for injury (traumatic brain injury, burn, drowning, motor vehicle accidents, and gun shot wounds) … and to contribute to the development of disease.’

Younger people between the ages of 25 to 34 are most likely to binge drink, with a quarter taking part in the activity, according to CDC

Younger people between the ages of 25 to 34 are most likely to binge drink, with a quarter taking part in the activity, according to CDC 

10 states where alcohol abuse causes the highest share of deaths 

1. New Mexico (21.7% of deaths among people 20 to 64 from 2015 to 2019 tied to excessive alcohol use

2. Alaska (19.7)

3. Wyoming (19)

4. Colorado (18.2)

5. South Dakota (17)

6. Montana (16.7)

7. Arizona (16.4)

8. North Dakota (16.1)

9. Oregon (16.1)

10. New Hampshire (14.9)

10 states where alcohol abuse causes the lowest share of deaths 

1. Mississippi (9.3% of deaths among people 20 to 64 from 2015 to 2019 tied to excessive alcohol use

2. Alabama (9.9)

3. Arkansas (10.3)

4. Georgia (10.7)

5. Kentucky (11.1)

6. New York (11.2)

7. Tennessee (11.4)

8. West Virginia (11.6)

9. Virginia (11.6)

10. Louisiana (11.6)

The NIH reports that 70 per cent of American adults have drank in the past year and 55 per cent within the last month.

Binge drinking, which is consuming five or more drinks on one occasion as a man or four or more for a woman, is especially dangerous.

The CDC warns that 25 per cent of adults binge drink weekly. The habit accounts for almost all excessive drinking in America.

Nearly all Americans who report excessive drinking also binge drink.

‘Part of the problem is the social acceptability of alcohol drinking, the effective and massive campaigns promoting alcohol consumption, and the overall lack of knowledge by individuals of what constitutes excessive alcohol consumption,’ Dr Molina explained.

‘…Few individuals keep ‘tabs’ of the alcohol consumed [when they are going out] and easily fall into the category of at risk alcohol use.’ 

Dr Amit Sachdev, director of the Division of Neuromuscular Medicine and Michigan State University, told last month that these habits are incredibly risky.

‘[Alcohol abuse] will cause the brain to atrophy or shrink,’ he explained.

‘In the long run that can result in dementia, people can have problems with memory, sequencing, coordination, behavior.’