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Alcohol-related Deaths Increased Sharply During the Pandemic


A new study from researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has found alcohol-related deaths spiked during the first year of the pandemic.

Pandemic increase:

The study found the number of deaths involving alcohol rose to 99,017 in 2020, a 25.5% increase from 2019 (78,927).

  • The increase dwarfs the annual average of 3.6% between 1999 and 2019.

  • It also outpaced the increase in all-cause mortality in 2020 (16.6%).

Alcohol-related death rates increased for all age groups, according to the study.

  • The largest increases occurred among those aged 35 to 44 years (39.7% between 2019 and 2020) and 25 to 34 years (39.0%).

The authors found deaths with an underlying cause of alcohol-associated liver disease jumped 22.4% between 2019 and 2020.

  • The number of deaths with an underlying cause of alcohol-related mental and behavioral disorders increased by 35.1%.

  • Opioid deaths with alcohol as a contributing cause increased by 40.8%.

The study relied on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data and was published as a research letter in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A “hidden toll”:

The authors say deaths involving alcohol reflect the pandemic’s “hidden tolls,” as people turned to drinking to cope with pandemic-related stressors.

  • The study suggests policymakers should consider whether alcohol-related deaths will decrease as the pandemic wanes and how policy changes could help reduce such deaths.

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