Young adults led surge in alcohol-related deaths during COVID study shows

Young adults led a surge of alcohol-related deaths across all ages and sexes during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study shows.

An analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that the spike in alcohol-related deaths from 2019 to 2020 and 2021 exceeded pre-pandemic rates of increase, according to a research letter published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For every 100,000 Americans aged 25 to 44 years old, 10.83 died of alcohol-related causes in 2020 and 10.85 in 2021, up from 7.43 in 2019.

That exceeded the study’s projected death rates in the age group, based on pre-pandemic trends, of 7.71 for 2020 and 8.1 for 2021. The rate of increase was higher than that of any other age group.

“Younger persons, particularly those aged 25 to 44 years, had the steepest upward trend,” the study’s researchers wrote.

Overall, the study found that alcohol-related death rates increased by 24.79% in 2020 and 21.95% in 2021 above their projected rates.

“Mounting evidence indicates that alcohol sales, alcohol consumption, and complications of alcohol use have increased during the pandemic,” the study noted.

Among the sexes, alcohol-related deaths increased at about the same rate for men and women.

Dr. Yee Hui Yeo of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and Dr. Fanpu Ji of Second Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University in China were the co-authors of the study.

They used 2012-2019 data from the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System to project 2020 and 2021 mortality rates. Overall, there were 343,384 alcohol-related deaths in the U.S. between 2012 and 2021.

COVID-19 infections caused less than 10% of all excess alcohol-related deaths during the pandemic years, the study found.

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