Even worse, these numbers are likely underestimating the number of people dying due to alcohol being a factor. The CDC numbers don’t include deaths from such diseases as HIV/AIDS, pneumonia and tuberculosis, where alcohol is often a major contributing factor in those deaths. The CDC wasn’t able to get good estimates on how many of those deaths came about from excessive drinking, so were excluded.
What makes these numbers tragic is these deaths are preventable. In fact, alcohol is now the fourth leading cause of preventable death in the US, coming in behind smoking, poor nutrition habits and sedentary behavior. These deaths also have a huge financial impact. It’s estimated the premature deaths caused by alcohol cost the US $224 billion a year, or the equivalent of $1.90 for every drink sold.
While researchers did include car accident deaths which could be attributed to alcohol (they only included deaths where a medical examiner had found a .10% or more blood-alcohol level in one of the drivers of the accident, above the .08% legal limit when drivers are considered impaired), they also looked at a wide variety of other causes. These included such things as accidental falls, drug overdoses, homicides, suicides and accidental poisonings where alcohol was also involved. They also looked into alcohol and diseases such as breast cancer, stroke and high blood pressure.
The researchers concluded that an average of 87,798 deaths each year could be attributed to alcohol from 2006 to 2010. The deaths happened far more often in men, with nearly three-fourths (71%) of these deaths happening to them. This is probably due to the fact men tend to drink more than women, and they are also much more likely to be involved in homicides than women.
The report also found the chances of dying from alcohol varies quite a bit depending on where in the US you live. Those living in New Mexico had the greatest chance with more than 15% (16.4%) of those between the ages of 20 and 64 dying from alcohol. In contrast, less than half the number (7.5%) of the deaths in Maryland could be attributed to alcohol.
(Photo courtesy of Mario Antonio Pena Zapateria)