Alcohol-linked deaths rise sharply in rural US towns: Study

2020-10-01 19:39:40
Alcohol-linked deaths rise sharply in rural US towns: Study

Drinking alcohol in rural American towns has become particularly deadly for many of its residents, a new U.S. government report shows.

Deaths related to alcohol use in those regions rose 43% between 2006 and 2018, the last year which data was available, according to researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Also, the rate of deaths among women more than doubled, the CDC report said.

"I really want to highlight this health disparity, the fact that there is an increase in rural areas in recent years," said lead researcher Merianne Spencer, from the division of analysis and epidemiology at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

"Hopefully, we can take it to the next step, and other researchers can delve into this question, because we are seeing this at the national level," Spencer added.

For the report, the researchers included deaths from alcohol-related medical conditions, such as cirrhosis of the liver, but not causes indirectly related to alcohol use, such as motor vehicle crashes or suicides, Spencer explained.

"These increases in alcohol-related deaths may well be connected to the fairly recently described phenomenon of lowered life expectancy in the United States over the past few years, primarily in white individuals with lower educational achievement," said Dr. J.C. Garbutt, an adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill.

The findings come as other research highlights how drinking remains a problem for many in the U.S., particularly among women.

Robyn Oster, a research associate in health law and policy at the Partnership to End Addiction, said several factors may contribute to alcohol-related deaths in rural American towns.

"Rural areas lack sufficient treatment capacity, with few treatment providers and facilities, particularly for addiction treatment, to help those with alcohol use disorder," she said.

Alcohol-related deaths go along with the increases in deaths from drug overdoses and suicides. "Many people have comorbid mental health and substance use disorders, and alcohol use can contribute to drug overdoses and suicides," she said.

Some of the deaths may be related to economic decline, Oster said. "Some studies have linked economic conditions, such as job loss or unemployment, to alcohol deaths," she noted.

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Tags: us alcohol deaths
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