A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that between 2006 and 2010, 1 in every 10 deaths among working-age adults in the US was attributable to excessive alcohol consumption.

According to the research team, including Mandy Stahre, epidemic intelligence service officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive alcohol use is the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the US.

In 2004, the CDC released an Alcohol-Related Disease Impact (ARDI) application online, which allowed access to data revealing the number of alcohol-attributable deaths (AAD) and years of potential life lost (YPLL) that were a result of excessive alcohol consumption.

Using this application, the CDC estimated that in 2001 alone, there were around 75,000 deaths and 2.3 million YPLL lost due to heavy alcohol use. But the team notes that no more estimates have been made from the application since then.

Furthermore, no annual death or YPLL rates as a result of heavy drinking were revealed and no estimates were made against specific age groups.

With this in mind, the investigators used the ARDI application to estimate the average number of annual deaths and YPLL as a result of excessive alcohol consumption between 2006 and 2010.

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Of average annual AADs, 69% were among adults ages 20-64, meaning excessive alcohol consumption was accountable for 9.8% of total deaths among working-age adults in 2006-10.

They also calculated the rates of AAD and YPLL by individual states, looked at how AAD and YPLL contributed to total deaths and YPLL among adults of working age (20-64 years), and estimated the number of alcohol-related deaths and YPLL among those under 21 years.

Excessive alcohol consumption was defined as: binge drinking (more than 5 drinks on one occasion for men or more than 4 drinks on one occasion for women), heavy weekly alcohol consumption (more than 15 drinks a week for men and more than 8 drinks a week for women) and any alcohol consumption by pregnant women or individuals under the age of 21 years.

The researchers found that during the 4-year period, there were 87,798 annual deaths as a result of excessive alcohol consumption and 2,560,290 YPLL each year. Males were most affected, accounting for 71% of AADs and 72% of YPLL.

The most common cause of chronic AAD was alcoholic liver disease, while motor-vehicle crashes were the most common form of acute AAD.

But most notably, 69% of annual AADs were among adults ages 20-64, meaning excessive alcohol consumption was accountable for 9.8% of total deaths among working-age adults in 2006-10 – almost 1 in every 10. They were also accountable for 82% of average annual YPLL during this period.

Commenting on their findings, recently published in the CDC journal Preventing Chronic Disease, the study authors say:

This analysis illustrates the magnitude and variability of the health consequences of excessive alcohol consumption in the US, and the substantial contribution of excessive drinking to premature mortality among working-age adults.

More widespread implementation of interventions recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force, including increasing alcohol prices by raising alcohol taxes, enforcing commercial host (dram shop) liability, and regulating alcohol outlet density, could reduce excessive alcohol consumption and the health and economic costs related to it.”

The researchers note that their study is subject to some limitations. For example, they say data on alcohol consumption used to calculate AADs were based on self-reports, therefore alcohol consumption may have been underestimated.

Furthermore, data on the deaths of former drinkers – who the team says may have stopped drinking due to alcohol-related health issues – were not included in their AAD estimates, even though their deaths could have been a result of heavy alcohol use.

Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on a study published in PLOS One suggesting that just one session of binge drinking may be harmful to health.