A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report has found that excessive drinking is responsible for one in 10 deaths in the U.S. among the age group of 20- to 64-year-olds.
For people in this age group, 9.8 percent of deaths were linked to binge drinking between 2006 and 2010, the authors of the study found. That’s about 87,798 annual deaths associated with heavy drinking. Excessive alcohol consumption is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths, along with the likes of smoking cigarettes, malnutrition, sexually-transmitted diseases, obesity, hypertension, and indoor air pollution.
The CDC and other alcohol experts see this study as a sign for doctors to take more initiative in testing their patients for excessive alcohol consumption. “In the pediatric and adult setting, it’s critical that physicians regularly screen their patients for alcohol use,” David H. Jernigan, director of the Johns Hopkins Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, told MedPage Today. “Heavy drinking starts in adolescence.”
Binge drinking is defined as being five or more drinks on one occasion, and this accounted for 44 percent of the deaths in the study. Most of them were because of motor-vehicle accidents. But binge drinking was also responsible for other chronic diseases, like alcoholic liver disease, which was the second most common next to car accidents, as well as cancer and heart disease.
“People mostly think that there are two problems with alcohol — alcohol addiction and motor vehicle crashes,” Jernigan told MedPage Today. “This study shows what other studies have shown — but in the general population — that there are so many other causes of death from alcohol, cancer [and] heart disease, as well as the other acute causes like drowning, falls, and so on.” What’s worse is that it’s likely that the survey only captured about 30 percent of total alcohol intake. “We know how much is sold, and people are definitely under-reporting,” Jernigan noted.
The CDC report is yet another reminder of how dangerous excessive alcohol consumption can be. “The substantial contribution of excessive alcohol consumption to total deaths and premature mortality among working-age adults (20–64 y) in the United States, as well as the large proportion of these deaths (69%) and YPLL (82%) that involved working-age adults, is consistent with studies assessing the contribution of harmful alcohol consumption to the global burden of disease and also reflects the substantial effect that excessive alcohol consumption has across the lifespan,” the authors state.