CNN — By Madeline Holcombe
A beer, glass of wine or cocktail may feel so common place that you don’t even think about pouring another, but a new study suggested it may be important for everyone to be mindful of their alcohol use.
An estimated 1 in 5 deaths of people ages 20 to 49 were attributable to excessive alcohol use in the United States, according to the study published Tuesday in JAMA Network Open. For people ages 20 to 64, drinking-related deaths accounted for 1 in 8, the study said.
The percentage of deaths attributed to alcohol use varied state by state, but nationally it’s a leading cause of preventable death, said lead study author Dr. Marissa Esser, lwho leads the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s alcohol program.
Researchers took national and state mortality data from 2015 to 2019 and looked at deaths either fully or partially attributable to excessive drinking. Those causes of death included vehicle accidents, alcohol poisoning and other health impacts, such as liver disease, Esser said.
The data showed that the deaths fully attributable to alcohol have risen in the past decade, Esser added.
“I’m not surprised at the numbers,” said David Jernigan, a professor of health law, policy and management at Boston University. “This is a conservative estimate.”
Jernigan was not involved in the study.
Esser said there were deaths that alcohol likely contributed to that the study’s researchers could not include in their estimates. Some conditions may have had alcohol as a factor, but researchers were not able to verify for sure the role that drinking played. In other cases, they were not able to determine if someone who died of an illness used to drink excessively but then stopped, Esser added.
And people often underreport how much they are drinking, Jernigan said.
“It doesn’t get anywhere near the attention that it should,” he said. “The bottom line is (researchers) continue to show that excessive alcohol use is a big problem in the US.”