Alcohol-related deaths increased 25% in the last two years

The New York Times reports that a recently study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (part of the National Institutes of Health) has illuminated the dire impact of pandemic life:

Numerous reports have suggested that Americans drank more to cope with the stress of the pandemic. Binge drinking increased, as did emergency room visits for alcohol withdrawal. But the new report found that the number of alcohol-related deaths, including from liver disease and accidents, soared, rising to 99,017 in 2020 from 78,927 in 2019 — an increase of 25 percent in the number of deaths in one year.

That compares with an average annual increase of 3.6 percent in alcohol-related deaths between 1999 and 2019. Deaths started inching up in recent years but increased only 5 percent between 2018 and 2019.

I worry that, instead of examining this issue with empathy and nuance, this simple fact will be twisted into a prop for the people who spent the last 2 years going on about the evils of authoritarian lockdowns to say, "See! We were right!" I certainly don't think anyone was excited to spend the last two years in various forms of isolation; it's possible that COVID restrictions both saved lives, and caused some serious trauma at the time.

For what it's worth, the suicide rate in the US actually decreased over the last two years. Again: there's nuance here, and a lot of things to examine and consider, starting from a point of empathy.

Alcohol-Related Deaths Spiked During the Pandemic, a Study Shows [Roni Caryn Rabin / The New York Times]

Image: Public Domain via Pixabay

Full disclosure: I also write for Wirecutter, which is part of the New York Times Company, which owns the New York Times.