Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Alcohol use disorder deaths soared during pandemic

“In publishing this article, we want everyone, especially policymakers and physicians on the front lines, to know that during the pandemic, there is really a significant surge in alcohol use disorder-related deaths,” the study’s lead author said.
Close up of a glass of wine and a beer in a bar. Istock

Story at a glance

  • Investigators at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center used predictive modeling, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to project alcohol use disorder death rates before comparing them to actual numbers. 

  • They found that the mortality rates increased among all ages and sexes studied.

  • The team found that actual mortality rates related to alcohol use disorder were far higher than expected in both 2020 and 2021.

Deaths related to alcohol use disorder surged during the pandemic, with young adults seeing an especially sharp increase, according to a recent study.  

Investigators at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center used predictive modeling, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to project alcohol use disorder deaths before comparing them to actual numbers. They found that the mortality rates increased among all ages and sexes studied.  

“What we found in our analysis reflects what we had been seeing anecdotally in our patients and in academic papers tracking complications like alcohol-related liver disease,” the study’s lead author Yee Hui Yeo said in a press release.  

“We also know that alcohol use disorder is often under-reported, so actual mortality rates related to alcohol use may be even higher than reported,” Yeo added.  


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The team found that actual mortality rates related to alcohol use disorder were far higher than expected in both 2020 and 2021. The observed rates were 25 percent higher than predicted in 2020 and 22 percent greater in 2021.  

Researchers acknowledged that while the older adult group experienced the highest mortality rate, younger adults aged 25-44 showed the greatest uptick.  

“In publishing this article, we want everyone, especially policymakers and physicians on the front lines, to know that during the pandemic, there is really a significant surge in alcohol use disorder-related deaths,” Yeo said.  

“We also want to recognize that patients who die from alcohol use disorder-related causes tend to have social determinants of health, like lower socioeconomic status, that can make it harder for them to access healthcare and help. Finally, we want to make sure that patients who do seek treatment for alcohol or substance use have access to follow-up care to prevent secondary complications.” 

A separate study published in December 2021 projected that a one-year increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic will result in 8,000 additional deaths from alcohol-related liver disease, 18,700 cases of liver failure and 1,000 cases of liver cancer by 2040. 


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