According to a new report published by researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 10 deaths among working-age adults between 2006 and 2010 were caused by excessive consumption of alcohol. The findings were published on Thursday in the latest issue of Preventing Chronic Disease.
The study explored the influence of alcohol consumption in U.S. citizens, who were between 20 and 64 years of age. Alarmingly, the researchers report that around 88,000 deaths annually stemmed from excessive alcohol consumption, shortening the lives of those who died from alcohol related diseases by an average of 30 years.
“One in 10 is a big number,” says Dr. Robert Brewer who leads the alcohol program at the CDC and is an author of the study published on Thursday in Preventing Chronic Disease. “One of the issues with alcohol that is particularly tragic is the extent to which it gets people in the prime of their lives and those premature deaths cost the United States $224 billion a year, the report found, or $1.90 a drink.”
The report indicates that many deaths arose from complications of drinking too much over many years, while others were more acute health effects. For example, cases of heart disease and breast cancer were deemed just two of the long-term consequences of drinking. In contrast, many other Americans died, over a relatively short period of time due to alcohol poisoning, alcohol induced violence and drink driving.
The death toll varies across different states. In New Mexico, 16.4 percent of deaths among working-age adults are linked to alcohol. In Maryland, the rate is only 7.5 percent.
“Excessive alcohol use is a leading cause of preventable death that kills many Americans in the prime of their lives,” said Ursula E. Bauer, Ph.D., M.P.H., 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.”
Excessive drinking includes binge drinking (four or more drinks at a time for women, five or more drinks at a time for men), heavy drinking (eight or more drinks a week for women, 15 or more drinks a week for men) and any alcohol use by pregnant women or those under the minimum legal drinking age of 21.
In 2006 alone, excessive drinking was estimated to cost the U.S. some $224 billion, a figure that equates to $1.90 per drink, claims the CDC. Breaking down this fiscal expense, researchers say that most of these losses were associated with reduced workforce productivity among populations of working-age adults.
The HHS Community Preventative Services Task Force has offered several recommendations on how to tackle excessive alcohol consumption including an increase in taxation, preventing further privatization of alcohol retail sales and greater regulation over alcohol outlets.
The data is based on conservative estimates and self-reports, so it may underestimate the prevalence of excessive drinking. The study also might not catch some alcohol attributable deaths among former drinkers, because they reported no longer drinking at the time of their deaths.
Still, the high death toll is a major concern for criminologists and health experts alike. Its why many of them support a higher alcohol tax to discourage excessive drinking.