A new study suggests that alcohol-related deaths increased during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Researchers published their findings Friday in Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers collected mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics involving people over the age of 16 from 2019 and 2020. They also collected data in the first half of 2021 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Their results showed that alcohol-related deaths increased between 2019 and 2020 from 78,927 deaths to 99,017 deaths. They said deaths from other causes had minor increases.
Researchers noted that alcohol-related deaths accounted for 2.8% of all deaths in 2019 and 3.0% in 2020. The number and frequency of alcohol-related deaths increased by approximately 25% between 2019 and 2020, the first year of COVID-19- pandemic.
They said there were increases for all age groups with the largest increase for people between 35 and 44 years, with an increase of almost 40%, and 25 to 34 years old, with an increase of 37%. They also saw larger increases among men compared to women.
“Deaths involving alcohol reflect hidden numbers from the pandemic,” the study’s authors said. “Increased drinking to cope with pandemic-related stressors, changing alcohol policies and disrupted access to treatment are all possible contributing factors.”
Researchers said they do not know whether alcohol-related deaths will decrease as the pandemic subsides and whether changes in public policy are needed.
Some states have also noted an increase in alcohol-related deaths as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Alcohol-related deaths in Wisconsin rose nearly 25% in 2020, according to a report released in January.
Data collected by the non-partisan Wisconsin Policy Forum show that 1,077 residents of Wisconsin died of alcohol-related causes in 2020, up from 865 in 2019. The data were collected from U.S. death certificates.
Other states reported an increase in alcohol sales. Sales at municipal liquor stores in Minnesota rose in 2020 for a record year. Sales at the state’s 213 “munis” rose 10% during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report released in October by state auditor Julie Blaha. In recent years, a typical sales increase has been in the range of 1 to 3%.
According to the International Wines and Spirits Record, Americans consumed 2% more alcohol in 2020 than in 2019. This was the largest year-on-year increase since 2002.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.