Tis the number of Americans Killed with alcohol By 26% during the first year of the epidemic, according to data Released by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) on November 4. This sharp rise occurred from the beginning of 2019 through the end of 2020, jumping from about 10.4 deaths per 100,000 people to 13.1 deaths. It’s the largest annual increase in at least two decades.
The increase was largely driven by alcoholic liver disease, which was up 23% year over year, and mental health and behavioral disorders caused by alcohol use (such as deaths from intoxication, dependence, or psychotic disorder), which were up 33%. The overall increase is “something we see across almost anyone of drinking age, except for 85 and older for males,” says study co-author Merian Rose Spencer of NCHS.
While the authors of the new report do not speculate on the social forces driving the increase, other experts who study alcohol consumption say that increased alcohol use has been a troubling trend for years. “The pandemic has fueled the fire,” says Aaron White, senior scientific advisor to the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, who was not involved in the study.
Read more: How 988 will transform America’s approach to mental health
One big motivation is that Americans are simply drinking more alcohol. From 1999 to 2019, Alcohol consumption increased By about 10%. The potential contributor is fall Alcohol taxes, especially as alcohol taxes are becoming less common, says Katherine Keys, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health who has studied alcohol consumption across generations. (Keys was not involved in the NCHS research.)
Historically, men of all ages consumed more alcohol and died of alcohol-related causes than women, but for nearly a decade, women have been filling the gap. More than men, women are driving the recent increases in alcohol consumption reflected in the new study. Alcohol consumption by men has largely remained stable in the past two decades, but has risen during that time among women, according to Research by White published in 2020; Between 2000 and 2016, the number of women drinking increased by 14%, and by only 0.5% among men. According to federal research on November 4, while more men continue to die from alcohol deaths, the gender gap is narrowing: While 3.6 times more men than women died from such deaths in 2000, 2.6 times the number of deaths in the year 2020.
Especially in middle age, Keys says, “We’re seeing consistent and strong increases in binge drinking, especially among women.” Over the past decade at least, young adults have started drinking less, but people between the ages of 30 and 55 have increased the amount they drink, Keys says.
Read more: Study shows psilocybin may help treat alcohol dependence
The pandemic has intensified many of these trends and transformed drinking habits. selling alcohol rose In the United States at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown through at least The first months of 2021And more people drank at home alone. White speculates that people may have drank more to pass the time during the lockdown, or because they were spending more time at home, near the refrigerator, and away from the office.
A lot of drinking problems are also driven by what White calls the “dark side of drug use”: drinking not for pleasure, but “to reduce discomfort,” says White. For many people, the pandemic has likely triggered this impulse, he says. “Everyone suffered During the pandemic.” “There is a national increase in anxiety, worryand fear. We tend to look for ways to deal with that when we feel uncomfortable, and one of those ways is alcohol.”
Keyes and White say it’s important for alcohol to be recognized as a public health risk. They say it’s critical to reach people who need help — especially, says White, by screening people for alcohol consumption problems at doctor visits. Keys says it’s also essential for people to know that it’s OK to talk about substance use problems and that there are evidence-based treatments, Including medicines and outpatient clinics treatment or treatmentcan help.
More must-read stories from TIME
Discussion about this post