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More under-65s died as a result of drinking too much alcohol in 2020 than from Covid-19, a new study has revealed.
Research conducted by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) showed that US deaths from alcohol-related issues spiked by a massive 25.5% in 2020 compared with the previous year, renewing concerns over the impact of pandemic lockdowns on those struggling with addiction.
Using death certificates to log the number of people who had alcohol listed as an underlying or contributing cause of death, the NIAAA found that 99,0000 Americans died from alcohol-related causes in 2020.
Comparing those figures with available data on Covid-19 related deaths, the study revealed that 74,408 under 65s died from factors related to alcohol consumption during the first year of the pandemic – 333 more than died of Covid-19.
Health experts have previously warned that the extended periods of isolation that characterised lockdowns over the past two years had had a negative effect on people dealing with substance abuse issues, with studies showing that Americans reported drinking more to cope with the pressures of lockdown.
Speaking to the New York Times, study author Aaron White described stress as the 'primary factor' in relapsing, and also pointed to the impact of the reduced availability of services like rehab and AA for people dealing with substance abuse issues.
"There is no question there was a big increase in self-reported stress, and big increases in anxiety and depression, and planet-wide uncertainty about what was coming next," he said. "That’s a lot of pressure on people who are trying to maintain recovery."
Deaths from alcohol-related causes have been trending upwards over the past two decades, with White warning that the elevated numbers seen during the pandemic 'could be the new norm.'
The pandemic has resulted in an increase in excess deaths from all causes, including heart disease, dementia and substance abuse. However the NIAAA study shows that deaths from alcohol-related factors increased at a faster rate than deaths from all causes, which rose by 16.6% in 2020.
Young adults aged between 25 and 44 saw the most significant increase, with alcohol-related deaths in that age group soaring by almost 40%, the report found.
Drug overdoses also increased significantly during the first year of the pandemic, with more than 100,000 Americans dying of overdoses between April 2020 and April 2021 - an increase of almost 30% on the previous 12 month period.
If you want to discuss any issues relating to alcohol in confidence, contact Drinkline on 0300 123 1110, 9am–8pm weekdays and 11am–4pm weekends for advice and support.
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