"From 2016–2017 to 2020–2021, the average annual number of U.S. deaths from excessive alcohol use increased by more than 40,000 (29%), from approximately 138,000 per year (2016–2017) to 178,000 per year (2020–2021). This increase translates to an average of approximately 488 deaths each day from excessive drinking during 2020–2021. From 2016–2017 to 2020–2021, the average annual number of deaths from excessive alcohol use increased by more than 25,000 among males and more than 15,000 among females; however, the percentage increase in the number of deaths during this time was larger for females (approximately 35% increase) than for males (approximately 27%). These findings are consistent with another recent study that found a larger increase in fully alcohol-attributable death rates among females compared with males (8).

"Increases in deaths from excessive alcohol use during the study period occurred among all age groups. A recent study found that one in eight total deaths among U.S. adults aged 20–64 years during 2015–2019 resulted from excessive alcohol use (9). Because of the increases in these deaths during 2020–2021, including among adults in the same age group, excessive alcohol use could account for an even higher proportion of total deaths during that 2-year period. In addition, data from Monitoring the Future, an ongoing study of the behaviors, attitudes, and values of U.S. residents from adolescence through adulthood, showed that the prevalence of binge drinking among adults aged 35–50 years was higher in 2022 than in any other year during the past decade§§§; this increase could contribute to future increases in alcohol-attributable deaths. In this study, fewer than one third of deaths from excessive alcohol use were from fully alcohol-attributable causes, highlighting the importance of also assessing partially alcohol-attributable causes to better understand the harms from excessive drinking, including binge drinking.

"The nearly 23% increase in the deaths from excessive alcohol use that occurred from 2018–2019 to 2020–2021 was approximately four times as high as the previous 5% increase that occurred from 2016–2017 to 2018–2019. Increases in the availability of alcohol in many states might have contributed to this disproportionate increase (10). 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).¶¶¶ General delays in seeking medical attention, including avoidance of emergency departments**** for alcohol-related conditions††††; stress, loneliness, and social isolation; and mental health conditions might also have contributed to the increase in deaths from excessive alcohol use during the COVID-19 pandemic."


Esser MB, Sherk A, Liu Y, Naimi TS. Deaths from Excessive Alcohol Use — United States, 2016–2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2024;73:154–161. DOI: dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7308a1