The United States saw a 26 percent increase in deaths caused by alcohol during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study released Friday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This massive spike represents about 13 deaths per 100,000 Americans, marking the highest rate in at least 40 years, the head of the study, Merianne Spencer, told The Associated Press. CDC data showed that deaths increased in almost every age group, though the rate for men was anywhere from two to four times higher than for women.
The 26 percent bump is a stratospheric rise to a statistic that had already been increasing — the CDC said the rate of alcohol-related deaths from 2000 to 2018 had never increased more than 7 percent.
While depression related to the first year of the pandemic was cited by the CDC as a significant contributing factor, the report noted there may have been a number of other reasons for the spike as well. Marissa Esser, the head of the CDC's alcoholism division, told AP the additional deaths may have been related to people with alcohol-related illnesses being unable to receive medical care during the pandemic.
In total, there were more than 52,000 deaths last year classified as "alcohol-induced," the CDC said, up from 39,000 in 2019. This includes deaths from alcohol-caused liver failure, alcohol poisoning, and complications from alcohol withdrawal.
The study found at least one in eight deaths among Americans aged 20 to 64 could be linked to alcohol.