With an ever-growing selection of craft beers and cocktails, wines and spirits to sample, it’s not surprising to learn that Americans are drinking more and according to new research, the number of alcohol-related deaths has more than doubled over the past 20 years.
A recent NPR article reports that nearly 73,000 people died in the United States due to liver disease and other alcohol-related health problems in 2017. In 1999 that number was 36,000. And some of the biggest jumps in deaths related to alcohol were among women and middle-aged and older adults.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism study was recently published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Researchers found, by analyzing National Center for Health Statistics data, that although men died at a higher rate than women, the largest increase in 2017 alcohol-related deaths was among white women. This group also had an increase in Emergency Room visits, hospitalization as well as death associated with greater alcohol use.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that alcohol is more deadly than illicit drugs, including opioids and second only to cigarettes. And in addition to liver disease, alcohol consumption is linked with heart disease, cancer, automobile accidents and injuries resulting from falls.
The study also found a 10.1 percent increase in the prevalence of drinking and a 23.3 percent increase in binge drinking among women. People over the age of 50 increased their consumption of alcohol more compared with younger age groups.
What constitutes binge drinking? According to the CDC, excessive alcohol use is a pattern of drinking that occurs when men consume 5 or more drinks and women consume 4 or more in a 2 hour period, bringing the blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 grams percent or above. Binge drinking can lead to unintentional injuries, violence, chronic diseases, cancer, memory problems and alcohol dependence.
New advice suggests that men and women who drink regularly should consume no more than 14 units a week; six pints of beer or seven glasses of wine, according to BBC News. Moderation is the key, drinking over three or more days and having several alcohol free days. Learn more about the new UK alcohol guidelines here.