US alcohol death surge rose in 2021, CDC
The steep rise in US alcohol deaths sharpy accellerated in the second year of the pandemic, say new forecasts. The American public has only just been told of the surge in the alcohol deaths the year before.
The second pandemic year saw a 36% rise in alcohol-specific deaths, or 14,000 people, compared to pre-pandemic levels, says a CDC forecast
. The first year saw a 26% rise, a shock even to pessimistic onlookers.
The CDC projects increases in alcohol deaths for all age groups over 24 (see chart). The biggest rise in deaths is expected among 35-44s, with a 63% increase on 2019, while 55-64s were the bulk of the dead, as before.
The forecast also predicts a larger percentage rise in female alcohol deaths, with a 37% increase, compared to 35% for men. Nevertheless, more than twice as many men are thought to have died this way than women.
The US public was only told about the 26% rise in the first pandemic year, 2020, last month in a New York Times piece
. But CDC forecasts warned
of the steep rise in December, confirming
it with solid numbers a month later.
The CDC’s forecast figures for 2021 tally with anecdotal accounts from clinicians, like those featured in a column
this week in the Washington Post.
They say alcohol-related illnesses are still appearing at elevated levels.
also emerged this week the surge is largely the result of increased drinking among people who already drank heavily. This also seems to be the case in the UK, which saw a 19% rise in alcohol deaths in 2020.
The UK does not forecast alcohol deaths like the US and there are no figures yet for 2021. No date has been fixed for the release of second year figures, but the 2020 ones were out in December, which may be a guide.
Canada also saw a rise in alcohol deaths comparable to that of the US. Canada and the UK, like the US, all took no action to prevent lockdown alcohol deaths, so it is possible they also had a high death toll in 2021.
Lockdowns meant nearly all alcohol was drunk at home. Many people stopped drinking it or cut down, while many heavier drinkers seem to have increased their drinking to lethal levels, something the death statistics reflect.
Home drinking is much cheaper than drinking in pubs and bars. And at home there are fewer cues for us to stop, with the growth of home deliver meaning we need never run out.