Alcohol is one of the most widely consumed and dangerous substances in the United States. One of the most important facets of fighting alcoholism and alcohol-related health issues is identifying those most at risk and encouraging them to seek treatment sooner rather than later.
Alcohol-fueled deaths in America are one unfortunate result of a culture built around drinking, one which extends through all demographics. Additionally, alcohol-related health issues are the third-leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.
Understanding the Culture Behind Excessive Drinking
Unlike most other dangerous and addictive substances that are causing problems in the U.S., alcohol is legal to purchase, own and consume for adults of age 21 or older. Every state has unique laws when it comes to the purchase, transportation and distribution of alcohol. All states have unique issues when it comes to alcohol, based on the demographics, industries and cultural scenes in each respective state.
For example, states with many colleges and universities often contend with “college town” problems like underage drinking, loud college parties and drunk driving. States with large manufacturing and industrial markets may see a prevalence of alcohol-related illnesses in workers who get in the habit of “unwinding” by drinking after a hard day’s work.
How Prevalent Is Alcohol Use?
According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 86 percent of respondents over the age of 18 reported drinking at some point in their lifetime.
More than 70 percent reported drinking within the past year, and 56 reported some amount of drinking within the past month.
This indicates that more than half of all American adults consume alcohol at least once per month, but the reality is that most consume alcohol far more than that.
The survey also reported that nearly 27 percent of all respondents over the age of 18 engaged in binge drinking within the past month, which generally refers to consuming five or more drinks in a single drinking session. Only 7 percent reported heavy alcohol use within the past month, but the term “heavy alcohol use” likely means different things to different people.
How Does the U.S. Compare at the Global Level?
Compared to alcohol-influenced deaths in other countries, the United States has one of the highest alcohol-related death rates in the world: The U.S. ranks 39th out of 172 countries for alcohol deaths per 100,000 residents.
Many factors influence this ranking, including society’s perceptions of alcohol, the glorification of alcohol in media and advertising, and social norms that dictate alcohol as a “social lubricant,” allowing people to more easily relax and socialize during their leisure time. The U.S. also has many thriving high-stress industries such as finance, technology, marketing, sales, education and others that often lead employees in these fields to seek stress relief in unhealthy ways.
Drug and alcohol abuse is very common in the tech industry, where professionals work long hours and face stiff competition while facing an enormous demand to innovate and stay ahead of competitors.
Alcohol Statistics by State
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regularly release reports covering alcohol statistics by state. While mostly rural states report some of the highest alcohol-related death rates, it’s important to bear in mind that these states have lower populations than others.
Therefore, fewer deaths in a low population state can equate to a higher death rate compared to many deaths in a high population state. People living in rural areas may also face additional difficulty with alcohol-related illnesses and addiction due to a lack of access to reliable treatment programs.
Deaths Per State
The states with the highest alcohol-related death rates from cirrhosis and liver disease in 2015 include:
- New Mexico: 566 deaths (24.8 deaths per 100,000 residents)
- Wyoming: 118 deaths (18.9 per 100,000 residents)
- South Dakota: 139 deaths (16.1 rate)
- Montana: 179 deaths (15.7 rate)
- Alaska: 114 deaths (15.4 rate)
California (5,425), Texas (3,844) and Florida (3,084) reported the highest numbers of alcohol-related deaths in 2015, but these states are also some of the most densely populated in the country, so they only showed up in the middle of the rankings.
Which Behaviors Lead to Alcohol-Related Deaths?
“Alcohol-related deaths” is a blanket term that covers any type of death influenced by or expedited by alcohol. This can include:
- Fatal alcohol poisoning from excessive drinking
- Motor vehicle deaths from drunk driving
- Fatal long-term health complications such as liver disease
The rates of these kinds of deaths coincide with alcohol consumption rates.
For example, states with high drinking rates often report high drunk driving accident and death rates as well as a higher number of deaths caused by alcohol-related illnesses such as cirrhosis and liver disease.
North Dakota appears toward the middle of the rankings for cirrhosis and liver disease-related deaths, but it has the highest drunk driving death rate at about 11.3 per 100,000, according to 2012 data from the CDC. Montana ranks fourth in the country for cirrhosis and liver disease-related deaths, while it comes in second for drunk driving-related deaths at 9.4 per 100,000.
Join the Fight Against Alcohol-Related Deaths
These alcohol statistics paint a picture of a country that may not fully recognize the dangers of alcohol. One of the most effective weapons in the fight against alcoholism and alcohol-related deaths is advocacy, and you may wonder what you can do at the personal level to curb these unfortunate alcohol statistics.
Fight Addiction Now is a grassroots community of individuals who understands the importance of education and advocacy in American communities. We invite anyone to share their insight, stories and advice to the other members of the Fight Addiction Now community to spread the word to Americans who have witnessed the tragic effects of alcoholism and alcohol-related health issues.