Excessive drinking during pandemic increases alcoholic liver disease mortality

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Excessive drinking during the COVID-19 pandemic led to a significant increase in the number of deaths from alcoholic liver disease, causing more Californians to die from the disease than car crashes or breast cancer. Analysis by KFF Health News reveals.

Lockdowns have left people feeling isolated, depressed and anxious, and some even increased their alcohol consumption. Alcohol sales increased during the pandemic, with consumption of spirits in particular increasing significantly.

While this has increased alcohol-related deaths of all kinds, provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the number of Californians dying of alcoholic liver disease will skyrocket dramatically, with 1 more death between 2020 and 2022. 4,209 people died.

Alcoholic liver disease is the most common cause of alcohol-related deaths nationwide. In California, the death rate from the disease in the past three years was 25% higher than in the three years before the pandemic. The death rate in 2021 will peak at 13.2 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, almost double the death rate 20 years ago.

The disorder is usually caused by years of heavy drinking, but it can also develop after a short period of heavy drinking. Symptoms often do not appear until later in the disease, when weakness, confusion, and jaundice may occur.

According to Jovan Julien, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School, many of those who drank more during the pandemic were already on the verge of developing severe alcoholic liver disease. Julian said the extra alcohol accelerated the process, causing him to die sooner than he would have died without it. Julian co-authored a modeling study predicting many of the trends that emerged during the pandemic.

Bryan Lee, a hepatologist and liver transplant expert at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, said that even before the pandemic, alcohol sales had changed little, but lifestyle and dietary changes had changed. It said it contributed to an increase in deaths from alcoholic liver disease.

Lee and others have found a link between alcoholic liver disease and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a condition that is often characterized by excess body fat around the waist. Metabolic syndrome, often caused by poor diet and inactive lifestyles, is on the rise nationwide.

“If you have metabolic syndrome with obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, the same level of drinking more than doubles your risk of developing advanced liver disease,” Lee said.

Alcoholic liver disease in California kills the most people between the ages of 55 and 74. They make up about a quarter of the state’s adults, but account for more than half of all alcoholic liver disease deaths.

But the death rate for Californians ages 25 to 44 has nearly doubled over the past decade. About 2,650 Californians of the same age group died from the disease in the last three years, compared with 1,270 deaths from 2010 to 2012.

“People are drinking at earlier levels,” Lee said. “People are developing obesity at a young age.”

The highest mortality rates from alcoholic liver disease are in rural eastern and northern California. Humboldt County, for example, has more than twice the death rate from alcoholic liver disease as the state as a whole.

Jeremy Campbell, executive director of Eureka’s Waterfront Recovery Services, said Humboldt County and other rural areas often lack the resources and facilities to address high rates of alcohol use disorders. His facility provides intensive residential services and uses drugs to detoxify people.

“Two other inpatient care facilities in Eureka are also at capacity,” he said. “This is simply a situation where there are not enough treatments.”

Campbell also pointed to Humboldt County’s demographics, which have a much higher proportion of white and Native American residents than the rest of the state. Mortality from alcoholic liver disease in California is highest among Native Americans and Caucasians.

According to CDC data, death rates increased more among Native American, Latino, Asian, and black Californians than among non-Latino white Californians over the past decade. This is partly due to disparities in insurance coverage and access to care, Lee said. In addition, Lee said the prevalence of metabolic syndrome is increasing faster among nonwhites than whites. Racial health disparities are also reflected in differences in survival rates between black and white patients after liver transplantation, he added.

This trend is expected to continue. Julian expects the death toll to drop temporarily, as many people who would have died from the disease in 2022 or 2023 died sooner rather than later due to increased drinking during the pandemic. But he expects the death toll to rise afterward as bad habits learned during the pandemic begin to take hold. Long-term cost.

“More people are now developing alcohol use disorders because people were drinking more during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Julian said.

Philip Reese is a data reporting specialist and assistant professor of journalism at California State University, Sacramento.

This article was created by KFF Health Newsto publish california health linean editorially independent service. California Health Care Foundation.

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