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Alcohol-Related Deaths | Statistics, Causes, & Risk Factors

Published on August 2, 2021
Alcohol-Related Deaths | Statistics, Causes, & Risk Factors

Excessive drinking has long been a public health concern. Alcohol abuse is responsible for otherwise preventable deaths, whether these deaths result from acute intoxication or long-term chronic abuse.

By using alcohol in moderation, abstaining from alcohol, or seeking treatment for alcohol addiction or dependence, you can help protect both yourself and those around you.

Alcohol-Related Deaths In The United States

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol consumption is responsible for the deaths of approximately 95,000 Americans each year, or around 260 each day

This makes alcohol the third preventable cause of death in the United States, responsible for approximately 3.3% of all US deaths and over 2.9 million years of potential human life lost per year.

Gender Lines

By gender lines, approximately 68,000 American men and 27,000 American women die from alcohol-related causes annually.

Medical Cases & Overdose Deaths

In addition, alcohol use contributes to about 18.5% of total United States emergency medical cases and 22.1% of overdose deaths related to prescription opioids.

Alcohol-Related Deaths Worldwide

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that alcohol consumption is responsible for the deaths of approximately 2.8 million people in the world each year, or around 8,000 deaths per day. This is approximately 5.3% of all deaths, or about 1 in 20 fatalities.

According to these figures, alcohol abuse is significantly more deadly on the global stage than HIV/AIDS, which is responsible for approximately 2% of all worldwide deaths.

Causes Of Alcohol-Related Deaths

Heavy alcohol consumption disrupts the way the brain works, impairing coordination, balance, judgement, and inhibitions. 

In addition, ethanol itself is a moderately toxic chemical that, when used heavily or abused over a long period of time, may severely damage a wide variety of different organs. This can occur with little external symptoms until a person’s condition becomes advanced.

Alcohol-Related Diseases

The majority of alcohol-attributable deaths, both in the United States and abroad, are attributed to chronic diseases stemming from long-term excessive alcohol use. These health problems are most common among people ages 40 to 60, and include:

  • liver disease and liver cirrhosis
  • heart disease and stroke
  • upper aerodigestive tract cancers
  • liver cancer
  • supraventricular cardiac dysrhythmia
  • alcohol use disorder (AUD)
  • breast cancer
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)

Accidents & Other Causes Of Death

A significant number of alcohol-related deaths also occur due to accidents and other events including drownings, vehicle accidents, falls, alcohol poisoning, drug overdoses involving alcohol, murder, suicide, and others.

These causes of death are most common among younger age groups and are commonly linked to binge drinking.

In 2019, use of alcohol while driving accounted for 10,142 deaths or about 28% of all U.S. fatalities resulting from motor vehicle crashes.

Risk Factors For Alcohol-Related Death

A variety of different risk factors have been associated with different forms of alcohol-related deaths, including:

  • genetic predisposition (revealed by a family history of alcoholism or alcohol-related death)
  • problematic drinking patterns (binge drinking, heavy drinking, high-intensity drinking, and continuous drinking)
  • childhood trauma, poor parental involvement, or early exposure to alcohol other drug abuse
  • mental health disorders
  • development of alcohol use disorder (AUD)
  • substance abuse or other substance use disorders (SUD)
  • age and setting 
  • poor access to health insurance and preventive health care

Prevalence Of Alcohol Consumption In The U.S.

 According to health statistics published in the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):

  • 85.6% of Americans ages 18 and older report drinking alcohol at some point in their lives
  • 69.5% drank alcohol in the past year
  • 54.9% drank in the past month
  • 25.8% (29.7% of men and 22.2% of women) engaged in binge drinking in the past month
  • 6.3% (8.3% of men and 4.5% percent of women) engaged in heavy alcohol use in the past month
  • 14.5 million Americans are believed to have AUDs, including 9 million men (5.5% of all men ages 12 and older) and 5.5 million women (3.9% of all women ages 12 and older)
  • 414,000 adolescents (1.7% of those between the ages of 12 and 17) are thought to have AUDs, including 163,000 males (1.3%) and 251,000 females (2.1%)

If your drinking is problematic and leads to alcohol dependence or addiction, contact us today to learn about our treatment programs.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Mortality in the United States, 2018
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Years of Potential Life Lost, US, By Sex, Any Use
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) - Alcohol Facts and Statistics
World Health Organization (WHO) - Alcohol

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