Deaths From Alcohol-Related Cirrhosis Have Gone Up Almost Every Year Since 2000

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The liver is an organ that can regenerate itself when damaged, but in the process of regeneration, scar tissue forms, making it increasingly difficult for the liver to function. Unlike other liver ailments, cirrhosis can almost never be reversed, and it is often fatal. (It killed a majority of these 25 famous people who drank themselves to death.)

Although hepatitis and other factors can contribute to cirrhosis, the major contributor to death by cirrhosis is alcohol abuse – and according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, both the rate and the total number of alcohol-induced cirrhosis deaths between 1970 and 2019 have increased every year except 2002.

Among all cirrhosis deaths, 50.3% were alcohol-related. The proportion of these deaths is highest among those ages 25 to 34, followed by those ages 35 to 44. 

In 2019, liver cirrhosis was the 11th-leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for a total of 47,919 deaths – 1,947 more than the prior year. And between 2000 and 2019, the age-adjusted death rate from alcohol-related liver cirrhosis increased by 47%, from 4.3 to 6.4 deaths per 100,000 population. (Cirrhosis is one of the dangerous conditions a simple blood test can help detect.)

While the rate for males rose 33% over the 2000-2019 period, the rate for females soared 83.5% over the same timeframe. Rates for white males and females increased by 43.5% and 106%, respectively, whereas rates for Black males and females slid by 20.7% and 7.9%. 

To find the number of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths in the U.S., 24/7 Tempo reviewed a surveillance report published in April 2022 by the NIAAA, an agency of the National Institutes of Health, on liver cirrhosis mortality in the country between 2000 and 2019. Cirrhosis death records came from public use mortality data files produced by the National Center for Health Statistics. These data files contained individual records of each death occurring in the U.S. in every year between 1970 and 2019. The rate for alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths as well as the total number are age-adjusted to fairly compared communities with different age structures. 

The numbers and rates of death from alcohol-related cirrhosis per 100,000 people will likely increase. The report from the NIAAA does not include 2020, the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, when lockdowns contributed to a spike in alcohol abuse.

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