Excessive alcohol consumption is the leading cause of premature death in the United States, at just under 10 percent or 87,798 people per year for working aged adults, those between the age of 20 and 64 years old. The report that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s Alcohol-Related Disease Impact released was conducted between the years of 2006 and 2010. The report estimated that every year there were 2.5 million years of potential life lost across the nation, at an average of 30 years of life lost per alcohol-attributed death, because of excessive alcohol consumption.
Drinking excessively includes heavy alcohol consumption, which is more than eight drinks a week for women and more than 15 drinks per week for men. It also includes binge drinking, which is seen as more than four drinks per day for women and five drinks per day for men. Drinking of alcohol by women who are pregnant and people who are under the legal drinking age of 21 qualifies as excessive drinking as well.
The most common form of excessive alcohol consumption is binge drinking, which attributes to over one half of all alcohol related deaths in the United States, or 5 percent of all deaths period and three quarters of the economic impact to the country. The total estimated economic impact to the United States was estimated at $223.5 billion dollars in 2006. This included alcohol-attributed productivity losses due to premature death, as well as reduced earnings by excessive drinkers. The largest concentration of excessive drinkers is in those of working aged adults, which also resulted in the high economic impact on the country.
New Mexico, Alaska, Colorado, Arizona and Wyoming had the highest percentages of deaths for working aged adults attributed to alcohol, ranging from 16.4 percent to 13.2 percent annually. Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Hawaii and Alabama had the five lowest percentages ranging from 7.5 percent to 8.2 percent alcohol attributed deaths annually.
Those under the legal drinking age of 21 were involved in 5 percent of all average alcohol attributed deaths and 10 percent of the average annual years per life lost, most of which were due to acute conditions like binge drinking or car crashes. In fact, car crashes alone accounted for 36 percent of deaths involving alcohol for those under age 21. Overall 44 percent of excessive alcohol consumption deaths were due to chronic conditions, such as liver cancer, or alcoholic liver disease. Where as 66 percent was due to acute conditions like motor-vehicle traffic accidents. Over 71 percent of those involved in in deaths from alcohol were men. Similarly 78 percent of deaths for those below the age of 21 years old were also male.
The findings in the report were subject to numerous limitations. Any data received in the report was based on self-reporting and many people tend to underestimate the amount of alcohol they consume on a daily, monthly and yearly basis because of forgetfulness or even shame. A study found that compared to alcohol sales, the self-reported data showed only 22 to 32 percent of the data reported matched up to the sales. Also deaths of former drinkers who may have stopped drinking for a number of years, but whose prior excessive alcohol consumption could have attributed to their health problems were not reported. The report concluded that while the results do show the substantial burden of alcohol-related consequences, many of the limitations could result in substantial underestimations of the true nature of excessive drinking. So the 10 percent of deaths in the United States due to excessive alcohol consumption could be even higher.
By B. Taylor Rash