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2020 alcohol-attributable deaths in Minnesota surpassed previous years’

(The Center Square) – Minnesota saw more deaths that were wholly attributable to alcohol in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic than in the previous three years, Minnesota Department of Public Health data show.

“The majority of alcohol-attributable deaths are related to chronic conditions that develop after many years of excessive drinking,” MDH Public Information Officer Erin McHenry told The Center Square in an emailed statement Wednesday.

Chronic conditions include alcoholic liver disease and gastritis, she said.

Changes in death rates involving alcohol could stem from several factors, such as increased drinking to cope with pandemic-related financial, health and emotional stressors; disruption in support systems; and changes in access to health and substance abuse treatment, though long-term impacts could also contribute, she said.

“The number of alcohol-attributable deaths has been increasing for the past 20 or so years,” she said. “In fact, the number of fully alcohol-attributable deaths increased by one-third between 2000 and 2010, and more than doubled between 2010 and 2020 in Minnesota.” 

Minnesota Department of Health figures solely include deaths that would not have occurred without alcohol, rather than deaths partially attributable to alcohol, such as motor vehicle traffic crashes, violence and falls. The Minnesota data also does not include toxic effects of alcohol, but it does include maternal care for (suspected) damage to fetuses from alcohol, newborns affected by maternal use of alcohol, and fetal alcohol syndrome (dysmorphic). The department reported in its preliminary update of fully alcohol-attributable deaths in Minnesota that excessive alcohol use cost $3.9 billion in Minnesota in 2010.

A study published in the medical journal JAMA on March 18 indicated that nationally, alcohol-induced causes of death and multiple-cause deaths jointly increased about 25% between 2019 and 2020. Rates had increased a mean 2.2% between 1999 and 2017, the study said. Alcohol-related deaths in 2020 increased more compared with increases in all-cause mortality (16.6% increase).

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported the annual average of alcohol-attributable deaths due to excessive alcohol use nationwide between 2011 and 2015 was 95,158, with 26,742 deaths that were 100% attributable to alcohol.

CDC reported that 18.4% of Minnesotan adults who responded to a survey reported they binge drank (more than five drinks per occasion for men, more than four for women) in the past 30 days. States and Washington D.C. reported a median 15.7%.

The CDC lists causes of death that can be partially attributable to alcohol here.

Preliminary numbers of alcohol-attributable deaths in Minnesota in 2019 and 2020 are the following:

 

 

2019

2020

   

Jan

71

61

   

Feb

56

75

   

Mar

73

68

   

Apr

77

76

   

May

85

82

   

Jun

66

96

   

Jul

64

93

   

Aug

74

90

   

Sep

64

82

   

Oct

61

107

   

Nov

65

79

   

Dec

72

96

   

TOTAL

828

1005

   
         

Proportion of fully alcohol-attributable deaths that are chronic vs. acute

 

2019

2020

   

Chronic

91.5%

94.6%

   

Acute

8.5%

5.4%

   
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