Alcohol-related deaths have surged nearly 30 percent over five years in the United States, with roughly 500 Americans dying each day in 2021, according to a new study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers found that 137,927 Americans died from alcohol in 2016–2017, compared to 178,307 in 2020–2021.

Researchers found that women are increasingly impacted, with a 35% spike in deaths compared to 27% for men. Previous research has also shown that while white males account for more alcohol-involved deaths, the rate of increase has been significantly higher among women in recent years.

Attributing this surge to various factors, the researchers highlight a concerning rise in binge drinking rates, with 30.5% of young adults reporting such behavior in the past two weeks. Additionally, the increased availability of alcohol, especially during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, could have played a role. 

“During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020–2021, policies were widely implemented to expand alcohol carryout and delivery to homes, and places that sold alcohol for off-premise consumption (e.g., liquor stores) were deemed as essential businesses in many states (and remained open during lockdowns),” researchers wrote.

The study also notes that Americans may have delayed seeking medical attention during the pandemic, including avoiding emergency departments for alcohol-related conditions. Social isolation could have intensified stress and loneliness, further fueling an increase in alcohol use.

In response to these alarming trends, the study’s authors advocate for urgent public health interventions. Recommendations include limiting alcohol availability and accessibility by reducing the number of retailers selling alcohol and implementing increased alcohol taxes. Furthermore, they propose integrating alcohol screenings not only into primary and acute care settings but also extending them to nonclinical environments to proactively address this escalating public health crisis.