What is the Rate of Alcohol-Related Death? 

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Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 1/11/2022

Alcohol-related death is responsible for almost 100,000 deaths in the United States each year. This means that over 260 people die due to alcohol-related reasons daily. When alcohol-related deaths occur the average lifespan is shortened by 29 years. Each year, this accounts for almost 3 million years of life lost due to alcohol-related deaths. In the United States alcohol-related deaths account for the most cases of preventable death.

The reasons for alcohol-related deaths vary based on individual experiences. That said, the common reasons are listed below.

  • Cancer 

  • Heart failure

  • Car accidents 

  • Alcohol poisoning 

  • Violence 

  • Liver damage

  • Alcohol and drug interactions 

1. Cancer 

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. While cancer can be prevented, alcohol consumption can cause cancer in otherwise healthy individuals. Alcohol causes cancer because it's toxic to remove from the body and damages cells in the esophagus, mouth, and colon. Cancer can lead to death, the loss of organs, and poor health. While cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, alcohol-related cancer is often fatal.

2. Heart Failure 

Heart failure is another leading cause of death in the United States. It kills hundreds of thousands of Americans each year and alcohol consumption increases the risk of heart failure. Alcohol makes it harder for other organs to work properly in the body, which causes the heart to work harder. When blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rises in the blood this can also cause damage when it occurs frequently. Heart failure leads to heart attacks and other conditions that are often fatal. Heart failure can be treated if caught early but it often requires surgery and causes permanent damage to the heart muscle.

3. Car Accidents 

Car accidents account for over half a million deaths in the United States each year. While car accidents are dangerous when not drinking alcohol, drinking and driving increases the risk of getting into an accident or causing an accident. Alcohol slows motor functions and impairs judgement, which increases the risk of losing control of a vehicle, sleeping behind the wheel, swerving, and more. Car accidents cause broken bones, head injuries, internal bleeding, and death. While injuries from car accidents can be treated, people involved don't always make a full recovery.

4. Alcohol Poisoning 

When alcohol is consumed it leads to an increase in BAC levels. Alcohol poisoning occurs when BAC levels become unmanageable by the liver and the body fails to function properly. When someone's BAC levels cross .2%, the chances of alcohol poisoning happening increases rapidly. While it can be treated with intensive care, without medical care alcohol poisoning is fatal. It causes vomiting, loss of consciousness, and slowed breathing.

5. Violence 

When someone consumes alcohol their judgement becomes impaired. Alcohol-related crimes and violence increase when people have lowered inhibitions because risk-taking behavior is increased due to alcohol consumption. People also don't care about the consequences after drinking, which leads to more violence. While not everyone is violent when consuming alcohol, some people assault others, vandalize property, and even kill people.

6. Liver Damage 

The liver is responsible for removing toxins from the blood. Alcohol is a toxin that the liver removes from the blood but frequent alcohol consumption strains the liver. In these cases, fatty liver disease and liver failure can develop. Liver damage can also occur in people who binge drink. While scar tissue that forms on the liver from damage can't be removed, fatty liver disease can improve when people stop drinking alcohol and live a healthy lifestyle.

7. Alcohol and Drug Interactions 

Alcohol interacts with many prescription and nonprescription drugs. In fact, some people intentionally combine alcohol and other drugs for the high it produces. That said, alcohol and drug interactions are dangerous and sometimes fatal. For example, mixing alcohol with antidepressants can slow nervous system function down, which results in a loss of consciousness or death. Mixing alcohol and drugs can be treated by medical professionals or by not mixing drugs and alcohol. 

The United States experiences over 100,000 alcohol-related deaths every year, which is about 260 people per day. Alcohol-related deaths are also the leading cause of preventable deaths. Deaths caused by alcohol can be broken down by many metrics. 

These include:

  • Countries

  • Races

  • Sexes

  • Age 

Countries around the world have varying rates of alcohol-related deaths. Countries that have the highest rate of alcoholism account for the most alcohol-related deaths. These countries include Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Lithuania, Russia, Latvia, Estonia, Venezuela, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan. According to Statista.com, alcohol-related deaths in these nations are higher than most other countries.

To provide context, Belarus has a share of alcohol-related deaths upwards of 35%. Ukraine has a similar share of alcohol-related deaths at 34.4%. Moldova also has a high rate of alcohol-related death that's just over 33% and Lithuania's rate of alcohol-related death is just under 31%. In all of these nations alcohol-related deaths account for nearly one third of total deaths.

Alcohol-related deaths vary by race. While this metric is harder to examine because of how many races are spread across the world, the race statistics on alcoholism are clear. According to National Vital Statistics reports, non-Hispanic white people had the highest rate of alcohol-related death in the United States. In fact, the rate of death for this group was 32.7% higher than other groups.

That said, alcohol-related deaths increased across most races in 2019. Rates of alcohol-related death increased by 7% for the non-Hispanic black population, and 7.1% for the Hispanic population. While these increases display the problems each race faces in the United States, there are more race-related  statistics to consider.

One statistic to look at is the rate of death per 100,000 people for each race. According to Statista, American Indians have the highest rate of alcohol-related death at 31.9 per 100,000. The numbers for other races are 2.4 (Asian), 7.3 (Black), 10.6 (Hispanic) and 11.2 (White) per 100,000 people.

There are also statistics that display the differences in how alcohol-related deaths impact various sexes. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, men are more likely to abuse alcohol, die from alcohol, and binge drink alcohol. For this reason, alcohol-related deaths are higher across the board for men. Men are also more likely to consume alcohol at a young age but women are more likely to develop brain damage from alcohol at a young age.

When it comes to death, men are about twice as likely to die from alcohol than women. This is true for all age groups and even true in countries around the world. It's believed that men have a higher risk of developing alcoholism due to higher risk-taking behavior. Each year, about 70,000 men die due to alcohol compared to 27,000 women.

Alcohol-related deaths occur across all age groups. That said, the rate of deaths varies based on these age groups. According to the NIAAA about 5,000 people under the age of 21 die from alcohol-related causes. These numbers include 1,900 deaths from car accidents, 1,600 deaths due to homicide, and 300 from suicide. Alcohol-related deaths are also high in other age groups. According to the NIAAA 95,000 people over the age of 21 die due to alcohol-related illnesses each year.

Alcohol-related deaths also vary across age groups because of how alcohol results in death. According to the NIAAA, the rate of alcohol-related cirrhosis is highest between ages 25 and 34 (76%), followed by ages 35 to 44 (73%). People in older age groups who consumed alcohol for many years are also more likely to die from alcohol-related brain damage, heart disease, cancer, and liver failure.

Yes, alcohol-related death is preventable. Alcohol-related death can be prevented by not consuming alcohol over many years and by not binge drinking. That said, alcohol-related death due to accidents and homicide is not always preventable. This is because homicide and car accidents are caused by more than one person. Therefore, even sober individuals can be killed in these alcohol-related ways.

What is the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder? 

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) can be treated in many ways. The treatment method depends on individual needs and factors like age, severity of addiction, and the existence of co-occurring disorders. That said, alcohol use disorder can be treated with outpatient therapy, outpatient medically-assisted detox, inpatient rehabilitation (30-90 days is the most common), sober living homes, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) groups, and even faith-based organizations.

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Thomas Roth
Lead Editor

Thomas has been working in the substance abuse industry for over 3 years and he's made it his mission to help those in need. Tom started out by writing content to help people find addiction treatment centers near their location. Once he understood the value in the words he wrote Tom shifted to outreach, editing, and content creation. If nothing else, Tom wants to see those who struggle with Alcohol abuse disorder recover.