Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Alcohol-related deaths in the United States have doubled in the past two decades, a study contends, with the largest increase coming among women and middle-aged adults.
The study, published Wednesday in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, was published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, an agency of the National Institutes of Health.
Researchers report that 35,914 alcohol-related deaths occurred in 1999, a rate of 16.9 deaths per 100,000 people over 16, and by 2017 the figure had increased to 72,558 deaths in 2017, or 25.5 deaths per 100,000 people.
The 2017 figure is higher than the estimate for that year of deaths from illegal drug use, including heroin and fentanyl, a situation regarded as a public health crisis, researchers say.
Liver damage was cited as the leading cause of alcohol-related death, taking 30.7 percent of the total, and overdoses with alcohol or alcohol mixed with other drugs accounted for 17.9 percent.
Rates were highest among males and people in 45-to-74 age group, although the largest annual increase occurred among non-Hispanic white females.
"Women are at greater risk than men at comparable levels of alcohol exposure for alcohol-related cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, alcohol-related liver disease and acute liver failure due to excessive drinking," study authors Aaron M. White, I‐Jen P. Castle, Ralph W. Hingson and Patricia A. Powell wrote.
The study relied on mortality data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, but since death certificates sometimes do not mention the involvement of alcohol in a cause of death, "the scope of alcohol-related mortality in the United States is likely higher than suggested," the writers concluded.