“I’m not surprised at the numbers,” David Jernigan, a professor of health law, policy and management at Boston University, told CNN. “This is a conservative estimate.”
According to the study published Tuesday in JAMA Network Open, an estimated 1 in 5 deaths of adults ages 20 to 49 were due to excessive use of alcohol. In addition, the number was 1 in 8 for people between the ages of 20 to 64.
The study suggested that the number of people dying prematurely from alcohol use could drop “with increased implementation of evidenced-based, population-level alcohol policies, such as increasing alcohol taxes or regulating alcohol outlet density.”
Excessive use of alcohol is connected to the top causes of death for U.S. adults ages 20 to 64, according to the study. These causes include cancer, “unintentional injury,” and liver and heart disease.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a 2019 survey found that 85.6% of adults in the U.S. have said they consumed alcohol at some time in their life, with 69.5% having done so in the past year.
The pandemic exacerbated the problem of excessive alcohol use as people attempted to cope with lockdowns.
Research from Cedars-Sinai expert Yee Hui Yeo, MD, revealed a higher death rate from alcohol use or abuse in 2020 and 2021 than in previous years.
“What we found in our analysis reflects what we had been seeing anecdotally in our patients and in academic papers tracking complications like alcohol-related liver disease,” Yeo reportedly said.
The study found that “actual alcohol use disorder-related deaths” were 25% more than projected rates in 2020, according to Cedars-Sinai. In 2021, they were around 22% more than the projected rates.
“Alcohol use disorder is often underreported, so actual mortality rates related to alcohol use may be even higher than reported,” Yeo said.
Data published in Hepatology showed that the uptick in the consumption of alcohol for one year during the pandemic could lead to more alcohol-related deaths and diseases. Their estimates include 8,000 more deaths from liver disease related to alcohol use, 18,700 liver failure incidents, as well as 1,000 liver cancer cases by 2040.
“Our findings highlight the need for individuals and policymakers to make informed decisions to mitigate the impact of high-risk alcohol drinking during the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.,” senior author Jagpreet Chhatwal said.