What Is the Mortality Rate of Alcoholism?

What Is the Mortality Rate of Alcoholism?

Discover the sobering reality of the mortality rate of alcoholism and its global impact on health.

Understanding Alcoholism

In order to appreciate the severity and impact of the mortality rate of alcoholism, it's crucial to first understand what alcoholism is and how it manifests.

Definition of Alcoholism

Alcoholism, also known as alcohol dependence or alcohol use disorder, is a chronic disease characterized by an individual's inability to control or stop drinking despite its negative effects on their health, relationships, and social standing. It's marked by a physical and psychological dependence on alcohol, where the individual experiences withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking and requires increasing amounts of alcohol to achieve the same effect.

Alcoholism is a global health concern, as it is causally linked to more than 200 different diseases, conditions, and injuries that cause mortality and disability [1]. It's a leading global cause of disease burden and substantial health loss, with any level of consumption potentially harmful.

Symptoms and Signs of Alcoholism

Identifying alcoholism can be complex, as it can vary in severity from mild to severe. A person suffering from alcoholism might display the following signs and symptoms:

  • An inability to limit the amount of alcohol consumed
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol, leading to increased consumption
  • Spending a significant amount of time obtaining, drinking, and recovering from the effects of alcohol
  • Neglecting responsibilities at home, work, or school due to alcohol consumption
  • Continuing to drink alcohol despite its negative impact on relationships and social obligations
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms (such as nausea, sweating, and shaking) when not drinking

It's important to note that alcoholism is a progressive disease, which means the symptoms and effects of the disease worsen over time if left untreated. Chronic heavy drinking is linked to numerous health issues including various types of cancer, liver disease, cardiovascular conditions, and neurological problems, all of which contribute to the high mortality rate of alcoholism.

The Global Impact of Alcoholism

The issue of alcoholism extends far beyond individual health concerns, impacting societies on a global scale.

Alcoholism: A Global Concern

Alcoholism, or Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), is a global concern affecting a significant portion of the population. According to a study by the NCBI, 2.4 billion people or 33% of the global population, were reported as current drinkers in 2016. Alarmingly, the prevalence of AUD and high-risk drinking has surged over the past decade, particularly in the United States. The report indicates that one in eight U.S. adults were engaged in past-year high-risk drinking.

The situation in the United Kingdom is no different, with a high prevalence of heavy drinking and AUD. This widespread use and misuse of alcohol puts a large portion of the global population at risk of the serious health consequences associated with alcoholism, including various types of cancer and liver cirrhosis. The mortality rate of alcoholism is a sobering reminder of the gravity of this global issue.

Read: Binge Drinking Statistics

Gender Differences in Alcoholism Rates

While traditionally, alcohol use and alcohol-related harm were more common in men, recent statistics suggest a shift. According to the NIAAA, gender gaps in alcohol use are narrowing in the United States. The number of women age 18 and older who drink each year increased by 6%, while it decreased by 0.2% for men. Similarly, the number of women who engage in binge drinking increased by 14%, compared to only a 0.5% increase for men.

This trend suggests a growing concern for the health and well-being of women, who may be more susceptible to the harmful effects of alcohol due to physiological differences. It also underscores the need for public health efforts to address alcoholism and its associated mortality rate in both men and women, taking into account the unique challenges and risks faced by each gender.

Alcoholism and Mortality Rates

A significant aspect of the sobering reality of alcoholism is its direct link to mortality rates. This section will explore the mortality rate of alcoholism, focusing on alcoholism-related deaths in the U.S. and the mortality gap between alcoholics and the general population.

About 178,000 people die from excessive alcohol use in the U.S. each year.
Source: CDC

Alcoholism-related Deaths in the U.S.

Alcohol is a leading cause of mortality in the U.S., responsible for approximately 95,000 deaths annually, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the country [3]. Additionally, the age-adjusted death rate from alcohol increased by 43% from 2006 to 2018.

More than half of these deaths result from health effects from drinking, such as liver disease or alcohol poisoning, while about 1 in 3 are due to injuries like car crashes or violence [4]. Overall, excessive alcohol use is responsible for an average of 261 deaths per day in the United States.

Mortality Gap Between Alcoholics and General Population

Several studies show a significant mortality gap between individuals with alcohol use disorder and the general population. From 1987 to 2006, alcoholics in Denmark, Finland, and Sweden had a significantly shorter life expectancy compared to the general population, with a difference of 24-28 years. The gap in life expectancy increased over this time period in men.

For individuals hospitalized with alcohol use disorder, life expectancy was estimated to be between 47-53 years for men and 50-58 years for women, resulting in death occurring 24-28 years earlier than the general population. A meta-analysis of 81 observational studies from various countries indicated that individuals with alcohol use disorder have a three-fold higher mortality rate in men and a four-fold higher mortality rate in women compared to the general population [5].

Factors Mortality Rate
All Causes of Death 3.0 to 5.2
All Diseases and Medical Conditions 2.3 to 4.8
Suicide 9.3 to 35.9

Understanding the mortality rate of alcoholism and the mortality gap between alcoholics and the general population helps to shed light on the severity of this disease. It underscores the critical need for effective prevention strategies, early detection, and access to treatment for those struggling with alcohol use disorder.

Health Consequences of Alcoholism

The health consequences of alcoholism are severe and multi-faceted, affecting nearly every organ system in the body. The mortality rate of alcoholism is significantly impacted by these health consequences, which include a wide range of diseases and injuries.

Alcoholism and Disease

Alcohol is causally linked to more than 200 different diseases, conditions, and injuries that cause mortality and disability. Certain patterns of alcohol consumption can be protective for ischemic diseases and diabetes, preventing death and disability from these causes.

Alcohol consumption is causally related to several types of cancers, including mouth and oropharynx cancers, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, laryngeal cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and rectal cancer. The risk of liver cirrhosis, a significant cause of mortality among alcoholics, is also linked to alcohol consumption [1].

In 2010, alcohol-attributable cancer caused 337,400 deaths and 8,460,000 potential years of life lost (PYLL). This burden is equal to 4.9 deaths per 100,000 people and 122.8 PYLL per 100,000 people. Eastern Europe had the highest burden of mortality and morbidity from alcohol-attributable cancer [1].

Similarly, alcohol-attributable liver cirrhosis was responsible for 493,300 deaths worldwide and 14,327,800 PYLL in 2010. This mortality burden is equal to 7.2 deaths per 100,000 people and 208.0 PYLL per 100,000 people. Alcohol-attributable liver cirrhosis was responsible for 47.9 percent of all liver cirrhosis deaths and 47.1 percent of all liver cirrhosis PYLL.

Alcoholism and Injury

Aside from disease, alcoholism significantly contributes to injury-related mortality. Excessive alcohol use is responsible for more than 95,000 deaths in the United States each year, making it the third leading preventable cause of death in the country.

These injuries include both intentional (such as violence and suicide) and unintentional (like accidents and falls) injuries. Alcohol impairs physical coordination and cognitive function, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries. It also exacerbates mental health issues, elevating the risk of self-harm and suicide.

In conclusion, the impact of alcoholism on health is profound and pervasive, contributing to a range of diseases and injuries. These health consequences significantly increase the mortality rate of alcoholism, highlighting the urgent need for effective prevention efforts and treatment strategies.

Demographic Differences in Alcoholism Mortality

The mortality rate of alcoholism differs across various demographic factors. These include age and ethnic background, which can often influence the impacts and consequences of alcohol use disorder.

Age and Alcoholism Mortality

There is a significant relationship between age and the mortality rate of alcoholism. The age-adjusted death rate from alcohol increased by 43% from 2006 to 2018 in the United States. Nearly three-quarters of alcohol-induced deaths are among males, with the highest rate among those aged 45-74 years.

However, young adults ages 18-25 are at particularly high risk of alcohol use disorder and unintentional injury caused by drinking [6]. Alcohol-related deaths are highest among young adults ages 18-24 and decrease with age.

Age Group Risk
18-25 years High risk of alcohol use disorder and unintentional injury
45-74 years Highest rate of alcohol-induced deaths

Ethnic Differences in Alcoholism Mortality

Ethnicity also plays a role in the mortality rate of alcoholism. Studies show that specific ethnic groups are more vulnerable to alcohol-related health consequences. According to the NCBI, Native Americans and Blacks in the United States are most vulnerable to alcohol-related health consequences.

Furthermore, the research indicates that men report more alcohol consumption, binge drinking, alcohol abuse and dependence, liver cirrhosis, homicide after alcohol consumption, and drinking and driving compared to women, especially in older cohorts [6].

Understanding these demographic differences is crucial in addressing the issue of alcoholism and developing targeted interventions to reduce alcohol-related harm within these vulnerable populations. Therefore, it's important for healthcare providers and policymakers to consider these factors when creating alcohol prevention and treatment programs.

Ethnicity Risk
Native Americans High vulnerability to alcohol-related health consequences
Blacks High vulnerability to alcohol-related health consequences

Alcoholism Treatment and Mortality Rates

The sobering mortality rate of alcoholism highlights the importance of effective treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD). Accessibility and effectiveness of treatment play a crucial role in reducing the mortality rate associated with this condition.

Read: Surprising Alcohol Recovery Statistics Unveiled

Importance of Alcoholism Treatment

The consequences of alcohol consumption are severe and wide-ranging. They extend far beyond the immediate effects of intoxication. Alcohol is causally linked to more than 200 different diseases, conditions, and injuries that cause mortality and disability. These include several types of cancer, such as mouth and oropharynx cancers, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, laryngeal cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and rectal cancer. The risk of liver cirrhosis and injury is also linked to alcohol consumption.

In 2010, alcohol-attributable cancer, liver cirrhosis, and injury caused 1,500,000 deaths and 51,898,400 potential years of life lost (PYLL), representing 2.8 percent of all deaths and 3.0 percent of all PYLL in that year [1].

Effective treatment of AUD can help to reduce these alarming figures by helping individuals reduce or stop their alcohol consumption, thereby lowering their risk of alcohol-related diseases and injuries.

Read: Alcohol Relapse Statistics

Treatment Accessibility and Effectiveness

Despite the high mortality rate of alcoholism, many individuals with AUD who could benefit from alcohol treatment, including those with severe disorders, do not receive it. In the United States, only about 8% of individuals with past-year AUD are treated annually in an alcohol treatment facility [2]. This highlights a significant gap in treatment accessibility.

Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) is a paradigm designed for use by healthcare providers who are not specialists in alcohol treatment. Its aim is to identify and reduce harmful drinking, thereby reducing the risk of alcohol abuse and dependence. SBIRT has been implemented across a range of clinical care settings around the world, including hospital emergency departments, community health clinics, specialty medical practices, primary care, and other community settings [2].

Increased accessibility to effective treatment methods such as SBIRT can help to reduce the mortality rate of alcoholism. However, efforts are needed to ensure that those in need of treatment are identified and referred to appropriate services. This includes raising awareness about the dangers of alcohol abuse and the availability of treatment options, as well as reducing stigma associated with seeking help for alcohol-related problems.


[1]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3908708/

[2]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6883141/

[3]: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-alcohol-adverse-impact-health

[4]: https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/features/excessive-alcohol-deaths.html

[5]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4402015/

[6]: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4872616/

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