Health

Alcohol-Related Deaths Surge to Nearly 500 a Day, CDC Says

The study found that deaths linked to alcohol in the United States increased in five years by 40,000. The toll is stark: About 178,000 people died in 2021 from excessive drinking, compared with 138,000 in 2016. During that period, the deaths rose by 27 percent among men and 35 percent among women.

Dr. Siegel attributed the surge possibly to people’s high stress levels during the pandemic alongside increased home-delivery services offered by the beverage industry. “Anytime you make something easier to acquire, you see an increase in use in response,” he said.

Researchers concluded that their estimates of alcohol-related deaths were very conservative, because the data only included active drinkers. In addition, deaths from several diseases, including tuberculosis and H.I.V./AIDS, for which excessive drinking is a risk factor, were not tabulated. But researchers did count 58 associated causes, including some deaths directly related to bingeing, like alcohol dependence syndrome or poisoning, and other conditions less directly related, including breast cancer, heart disease and car crashes.

The C.D.C. analysis adds more urgency to a recent survey showing increases in binge drinking among middle-aged adults. Among people 35 to 50, a cohort including millennials and Gen X, binge drinking was at its highest level recorded in decades. Twenty-nine percent reported consuming five or more drinks in a row in 2022, up from 23 percent in 2012.

That annual survey, called Monitoring the Future, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, also found that the same age group reported record-high use of marijuana and hallucinogens.

The C.D.C. study notes that states and counties can try to reverse the death toll by promoting policies to increase alcohol prices, possibly through taxes, and by making products harder to obtain. The agency also suggested that mass media campaigns could encourage people to drink less.

Another suggestion: Train doctors how to ask patients about their alcohol use and make a plan with them to cut down.

Researchers are unearthing new evidence that suggests even a little bit of alcohol is bad for your health. The body of research is growing beyond the connection to law enforcement reports related to car crashes and homicides. Studies are now linking alcohol use to damage in a person’s DNA and how it can break down cells and cause mutations that develop cancer.

Even red wine, long believed to provide a health benefit, has lost its glow.

The findings, that drinking in moderation may not be a key to vibrant health, have emerged in recent years, as greater scrutiny of influential researchers’ ties to the alcohol industry have also come to light.