death by alcohol
June 27, 2014

Ten Percent Of US Deaths For Working-Age Adults Linked To Alcohol

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

While alcohol-related deaths are commonly viewed in the context of drunk driving, a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at alcohol-related deaths of any kind and discovered that 1 in 10 deaths of working-age Americans can be attributed to alcohol.

The study found that from 2006 to 2010, alcohol abuse could be linked to around 88,000 deaths of Americans. These causes of death included long-term effects, such as liver disease, as well as short-term effects, such as drunken violence or alcohol poisoning.

Of these deaths, almost 70 percent were Americans between the ages of 20 and 64 years old and these deaths added up to 2.5 million years of potential life lost each year.

“Excessive alcohol use is a leading cause of preventable death that kills many Americans in the prime of their lives,” said Ursula E. Bauer, director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “We need to redouble our efforts to implement scientifically proven public health approaches to reduce this tragic loss of life and the huge economic costs that result.”

"We're talking about a large economic impact, people who are contributing to society," study author Mandy Stahre, epidemiologist at the Washington State Department of Health, told USA Today. "They're in the prime of their lives, whether they're building up careers or midcareer. A lot of attention we tend to focus on is maybe college drinking or just drunk driving. This really talked about the broadness of the problem."

To reach their conclusion, Stahre and her colleagues reviewed information from the Alcohol-Related Disease Impact (ARDI) application for 2006-2010. ARDI supplies national and state-specific rates of alcohol-attributable deaths and years of probable life lost. ARDI presently includes 54 causes of death for which proof of alcohol involvement were either directly accessible or might be determined from existing data.

“It’s shocking to see the public health impact of excessive drinking on working-age adults,” said Dr. Robert Brewer, head of CDC’s Alcohol Program and one of the report’s authors. “CDC is working with partners to support the implementation of strategies for preventing excessive alcohol use that are recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force, which can help reduce the health and social cost of this dangerous risk behavior.”

William Kerr, a scientist with the Alcohol Research Group, told USA Today that current policies need to be bolstered.

"It's important to think about what might be done to reduce this (death) toll, and think about government policies that might reduce availability and increase the price of alcohol that is known to impact drinking in general and binge drinking," Kerr said.

While some politicians have proposed raising taxes on alcohol as a way of deterring abuse, the Distilled Spirits Council released a statement saying additional taxes are not a deterrent and negatively affect casual drinkers.

"Repeatedly, studies have shown that alcohol abusers are affected little by price," said Lisa Hawkins, the council's vice president, in a statement.

Toben Nelson, an epidemiologist and University of Minnesota professor, told USA Today that policies need to focus on stopping binge drinking and the culture around alcohol.

"Alcohol is a common, socially accepted drug in our society, and it's widely legally available and glorified to a great extent, so that certainly creates a culture where binge drinking is common and accepted in many settings," Nelson said.