New research reveals link between bereavement, binge drinking, and serious health risks

New research has uncovered a significant association between grief, binge drinking, and adverse health outcomes. The study, conducted as part of the Georgia Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS), examined the drinking habits of those who reported experiencing the death of a family member or close friend in 2018 or 2019.

The study’s findings highlighted that bereavement is common, with 45.8% of respondents in Georgia reporting the loss of a loved one during the specified period. Among this group, around 24% of those who suffered one death reported binge drinking. Those who were dealing with the loss of three deaths showed an even higher risk of bingeing–32%. Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks for women or five or more drinks for men within two to four hours.  

This study suggests that grief may contribute to the development of unhealthy alcohol consumption patterns. The most common types of bereavement reported were the death of a friend/neighbor (30.7%) or the experience of three or more deaths (31.8%). It may surprise you that binge drinking was much more common among those who lost a friend or neighbor than those who lost a family member.

Furthermore, the study highlighted specific demographic groups that were disproportionately affected by bereavement and binge drinking. Black or African American individuals had the highest rates of bereavement (57%), followed by those unable to work (52%) or who were unemployed (48%). Females were also more likely to be affected by bereavement compared to males.

Researchers say these findings have important implications for public health. The co-occurrence of bereavement and binge drinking poses a significant risk to both individual and societal well-being. The study underscores the need for public health surveillance systems to monitor this correlation and develop targeted interventions to protect the health of those affected.

In addition to the immediate risks associated with binge drinking, the study also sheds light on the long-term health consequences of bereavement. Previous research has shown that bereavement increases the risk of death by twofold and elevates the likelihood of requiring hospitalization. Additionally, those who have experienced bereavement are more likely to visit doctors frequently in the two years following their loss.

The study suggests that the impact of bereavement on health is not just immediate but also occurs gradually over time. It can lead to changes in habits and behaviors that contribute to poor health.