Deaths from alcohol use disorder surged during pandemic – Study

“During the first few months of the pandemic, my colleagues and I saw increased numbers of patients being treated for acute alcohol use-related conditions in the intensive care unit and through out the medical center,” said Yee Hui Yeo, MD, MSc, lead author of the study. “We also became aware of reports from single centers of elevated alcohol use-related complications. That prompted us to think, maybe this is a significant public health crisis.”

Investigators obtained de-identified mortality data for seven years—2012-2019—from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention database that registers more than 99% of all deaths in the U.S. They then used predictive modeling to determine 2020 and 2021 projected mortality rates based on previous years’ trends, and compared those with the rates that were actually observed.

“What we found in our analysis reflects what we had been seeing anecdotally in our patients and in academic papers tracking complications like alcohol-related liver disease,” Yeo said.

Results include:

  • In 2020, the observed alcohol use disorder-related deaths were about 25% higher than the projected rates.
  • In 2021, the observed rates were about 22% higher than projected.
  • The increase in predicted versus observed mortality was similar for both sexes—approximately 25% for women and men in 2020 versus 20% for women and 22% for men in 2021.
  • Although the older adult group had the highest mortality rate throughout the study period, it was the younger group (ages 25-44 years) who suffered the greatest surge during the pandemic, which warrants public attention.

“We also know that alcohol use disorder is often under-reported, so actual mortality rates related to alcohol use may be even higher than reported,” Yeo said.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, the reference  that mental health professionals use to categorize mental health disorders, defines alcohol use disorder as “a problematic pattern of alcohol use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by at least two of the following, occurring within a 12-month period.”

The manual then lists 11 criteria, such as a craving or strong urge to use alcohol; recurring use of alcohol that results in a failure to fulfill obligations at school, work or home; and continued alcohol use despite having persistent social or interpersonal problems that are created or exacerbated by alcohol use.


Filed under alcohol, alcoholism, drinking alcohol

6 responses to “Deaths from alcohol use disorder surged during pandemic – Study

  1. Thanks for your post today. I started taking antidepressants at least 20 years ago and stopped drinking beer and wine because of the warning on the label. I don’t miss drinking at all (or the awful hangover headaches the day after overindulging.). I have tried alcohol free beer. I don’t know if there is alcohol free wine ( cooking with wine seems to burn off the alcohol). I am happy drinking water as my beverage of choice. It’s boring but refreshing and hydrating 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I drink the occasional beer, mostly with pizza for dinner. Other alcohol holds no interest for me. Coffee is a great beverage and has health benefits. I drink decaf.


  2. The significant drop in life expectancy in the US coincided with the spread of COVID. The drop is quite concerning.


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