An Easy to Scan Introduction to the Statistics & Facts on Alcoholism and Its Consequences in the United States of America.
Since man first discovered the ability to create alcoholic beverages, alcohol has been the source of much joy for some, but unfortunately also the source of tragedy for others.
Many people find drinking some alcohol adds a little fun to life, whilst others find it to aid their demise.
However, the facts surrounding alcohol are extensive.
It is important to note that stats vary based on the source and methodology, but the patterns that emerge are very useful to know.
Winston Churchill, an alcohol enthusiast, once famously said:
The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.Winston Chruchill
What we present to you now is the incontrovertible truth on alcohol-related deaths and abuse from the latest published US data we could find in public record.
Alcohol Treatment Facts
Number of U.S. Adults Who Received Treatment for Alcohol Use in 2018 (by Age)
Sources: SAMHSA; NSDUH
This graph represents the number of adults, in thousands, who sought treatment of alcohol abuse in 2018.
It breaks it down by age and you can see that the vast majority of adults who seek treatment, do so after the age of 26.
This is likely due to the fact that alcohol has a cumulative toll on one’s life. Teens and young adults do not often see the worst effects of alcohol.
In these years, they tend to only see the fun and social aspects of alcohol.
However, as they age and their lives begin to unravel, many see the need to seek help.
Percentage of U.S. Americans Who Received Treatment for Alcohol Use in 2018 (by Ethnicity)
Sources: SAMHSA; NSDUH
This graph breaks down the percentage number of U.S. Americans who receive treatment by their ethnicity.
The numbers are fairly consistent with two exceptions.
Alcohol abuse tends to play a larger role within the Native American community and this is represented by 3.7% seeking treatment.
This is over three times the average of other ethnic groups.
Meanwhile, Asian Americans seek treatment at a rate of nearly 1/4th of the average.
Economic Costs of Alcohol Abuse
The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2010 were estimated at $249 billion, or $2.05 a drink.
Costs Due to Abuse of Tobacco, Alcohol, Illicit Drugs, and Prescription Opioids in the United States as of 2017
In 2017, the economic costs of substance abuse was staggering.
This graph breaks it down in terms of economic impact.
By far, tobacco has the largest economic impact on the economy and the healthcare system. Smoking is terrible for your health and the stats prove it.
Alcohol has the second largest effect, but a drastically lower impact on the healthcare system.
Whereas alcohol can be devastating to the body, those who use it in moderation can continue to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Alcohol Content (in Percent) of Selected Beverages
Whereas alcohol has pretty consistent effect on the human body, not all alcoholic beverages are the same.
This graph breaks down the average alcohol content of the various beverages as represented by a percentage.
So, for instance, tequila comes in at the top with 45%. That means the average bottle of tequila is 45% alcohol by volume.
Meanwhile, the average American beer hovers at 4%.
The end result is that it takes more beer to have the same effect of a few shots of tequila.
Wine hovers in the middle between 7% and 14%.
Most heavy abusers of alcohol lean towards spirits because it takes less drinking to have a greater effect on the body because of the higher alcohol content.
Stages of Alcohol Intoxication
We wanted to know how what are the different blood alcohol levels and how they affect a person from a normal state to a state of near death.
To start out, a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.01% to 0.05% is described as subclinical.
The effects are nominal and most states in the U.S. have a threshold of 0.08% BAC as the limit for driving.
As you move on up, the next stage is one of euphoria.
One reaches the pleasurable level of drink and this is what most moderate drinkers aspire to. By the time you get to 0.09% you become very excitable.
The effects are still enjoyable, but the joy begins to crash down the higher you go.
From 0.18% to 0.30% you enter a state of confusion. This is what makes drinking and driving so dangerous.
After these BAC levles, you fall into a stupor and by the time you reach 0.35% or above you can fall into a coma and are nearing death.
Alcohol Related Deaths
According to the CDC, men account for 72% of all alcohol related deaths. Keep in mind, these stats only include those deaths directly attributable to alcohol and its effect on the body.
The person who has a few too many and feels like they can hug a speeding train are not tallied here.
Alcohol and bad decisions go together like peanut butter and jelly. Yet, absent bad decisions, alcohol still has the ability to wreak havoc on the human body.
Men by a margin of nearly 3 to 1 suffer it’s worst effects more than women.
Deaths per Year
In this graph, you can see that the problem is getting worse before it is getting better.
Year after year, alcohol related deaths are getting higher.
While the increase each year nominal considering the rise in population, it is apparent that alcohol related deaths are keeping pace.
It would seem that man’s propensity to destroy themselves is a consistent element of human nature.
Deaths by Age
The effects of alcohol on the body have a cumulative effect. This is noted by the largest age range to suffer death by alcohol to be in the 55-64 year age range.
It is highly unlikely that those suffering death from alcohol in the late 50’s to early 60’s just started engaging with alcohol during those years.
It is more likely that this represents the cumulative effect of a lifetime consuming alcohol.
The stat drops significantly after the age of 65, because those dedicated to a life of alcohol abuse rarely make it the age of 65.
The second highest stat line in the age range of 45-54 demonstrates that a large number of alcoholics ever make it to 65.
Deaths by Age per 100k Population
This graph of deaths by age as per 100k population demonstrates the consistency of alcohol and its effects on the human body.
The proportions have remained the same over the years. Between the age of 45 to 74, alcohol abuse will claim the most lives.
The age ranges from 75 to 85 and over are still higher than the age ranges of 15 to 44.
What this demonstrates is that while alcohol is less likely to kill you during your younger years, if given enough time, alcohol will catch up to you.
Consequently, the take away is that it would do one well to come to grips with alcohol addition in their 30’s. Once you pass 40, the clock starts running out.
Global Deaths Rate
The global deaths due to alcohol by thousands trends look little different than the trends in America.
As the population grows, the deaths by alcohol grow with it.
It might be bourbon in America, vodka in Russia, or tequila in Mexico, but the effects of alcohol are the same.
To the tune of over 56 million, alcohol will cause more deaths each year than guns.
It is estimated that gun deaths will cause around 250,000 deaths according to the Journal of the American Medical Association Network study.
Causes of Death Due to Alcohol
Chronic causes are those associated with the long-term effects of alcohol on the body. Think cirrhosis of the liver, cancer, fetal alcohol syndrome and more.
Once again, alcohol assaults the body and that much is beyond dispute.
Acute causes speak more to the deaths that result of a single incident or day of drinking.
This would be alcohol poisoning, fall injuries, drowning and perhaps the largest category of alcohol-related traffic accidents. This graph also breaks it down by gender.
Whether from chronic causes or acute causes, men still suffer the effects of alcohol at a rate of over 2 to 1.
Among the major causes of death, by far and large, liver cirrhosis takes the prize. The consistent exposure of alcohol devastates the liver over time.
The 2nd highest cause of death comes through the variety of cancers that can be caused through excessive alcohol intake.
The liver is not the only organ affected by alcohol and cancers from laryngeal, oropharyngeal, and esophageal can develop.
Finally, the 3rd highest category is road related incidents. Alcohol and driving is a deadly combination.
Alcohol can kill you in a variety of ways, but these three present as alcohol’s favorite method.
Alcohol-Related Diseases by Gender
As you can glean from previous graphs, men seem to have a much harder problem with alcohol than women.
The reasons could vary from genetic to cultural, but the world around, the effects of alcohol will kill more men than women.
It can be noted that the push to make alcohol illegal in the United States during prohibition was spearheaded to a great deal by the rising influence of women in politics and eventual universal suffrage.
As it relates to alcohol-related diseases, men still suffer at a rate of over 2 to 1 over women.
Disability Adjusted Life Years Due to Alcohol
|Year||Years of Life Lost||Rate per 100k|
A disability adjusted life year, or DALY, is a measure of the overall burden of a disease.
It takes into account the years lost due to poor health, disability, or early death as a result of a disease.
Alcoholism is, by any measure, a disease.
According to this data, in 2017, there were over 1 million years of human life lost as a result of alcohol. That’s 339 years of life per 100k people.
In those terms and given that life is such a rare event in the universe, the effects of alcohol on humanity are staggering.
Drinking and Driving
Fatalities in U.S. Road Traffic in 2017 by Driver BAC Level
Source: US Department of Transportation
Perhaps maybe the most tragic graph of the entire series, this image illustrates the number of road-related deaths by the amount of alcohol in the system of the driver.
By far, innocent and uninebriated citizens are the victims of drunk driving. When one is above the legal limit at 0.08, the risk for death skyrockets.
Yet, even with a BAC level of 0.01 to 0.07, death is still possible.
However, it is the innocent and sober that bear the biggest burden of drunk drivers.
Young Drivers Under the Influence of Alcohol
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, alcohol has a staggering effect on youth.
Despite not being legally allowed to drink in the United States, youths ages 16-20 still account for 4.2% of drivers under the influence of alcohol.
There is a noticeable spike at the age of 21.
This is likely due to the legal access to alcohol as well as the freedoms one typically experiences in this season of life.
Regardless, in the years where the adolescent and young adult brains are still developing, alcohol plays a pivotal role in the decision to drive under the influence.
Alcohol Use Disorder
According to the 2015 NSDUH, 15.1 million adults ages 18 and older (6.2 percent of this age group) had AUD.
This includes 9.8 million men (8.4 percent of men in this age group) and 5.3 million women (4.2 percent of women in this age group).
In this graph, it highlights those designated with Alcohol Use Disorder.
This graph focuses on those 18 and older, but the pattern of alcohol abuse by men over women holds true for those under 18.
Once again, from a different source we continue to see the same result.
Gender continues to be a distinguishable factor when it comes to assessing the effects of alcohol abuse.
By a margin of nearly 2 to 1, men continue to lead women in the abuse of alcohol.
Deaths Comparison by Year
|Year||Death Rate Per 100k|
In another graph, we continue to see the rising problem of alcohol use disorder.
This particular chart represents it as a death rate per 100k people. However, the stat line continues to remain consistent. The problem continues to grow right along with the population.
Perhaps the most striking fact is that global population growth moves along at about 1% a year.
Meanwhile, we are seeing a near 10% increase in the deadly effects of alcohol.
It is a troubling stat line to which the world would do well to pay attention.
Alcohol Consumption per Capita in the U.S by State (In Gallons of Ethanol)
The population of the United States varies wildly from state to state.
The population of California is over 40 million, while the population of Montana comes in at just over 1 million.
So perhaps the only way to glean relevant data in terms of alcohol use is to take from a per capita viewpoint. This graph of alcoholcConsumption per capita in the U.S by state (in gallons of ethanol) does just that.
Apart from the outlier of New Hampshire, which comes in at 4.74 gallons per capita, the rest of the data is remarkably consistent.
It would seem that from sea to shining sea, Americans love their booze at a fairly consistent rate.
It might be moonshine in the hills of Tennessee or tequila down in Texas, but the data tells us that Americans enjoy drinking at nearly the same rate and within less than a gallon variance per capita.
Alcohol Consumption per Capita by Type
This is a graph that is fascinating as it leads one to ponder the reasons as to why the data shows what it shows.
In 1990, both wine and spirits were at a peak for that season in American history. Both showed a steep decline in the 1990’s and then started rising sharply after the year 2000.
As of 2013, the consumption of spirits and wines had passed 1990 levels. Meanwhile, beer has been on a steady decline in America since 1990.
Could it be economic factors driving this trend? Did the post 9-11 era of terrorism force more Americans to find relief via the bottle?
Many can surmise as to why, but the data is incontrovertible. Americans have been leaning heavier on the bottle in the past couple of decades than ever before in the past.
Alcohol Consumption by Race and Intensity
This graph demonstrates the remarkable consistency of alcohol abuse across ethnicity.
The yellow represents those within each ethnicity who consume alcohol on a regular, but moderate basis.
The blue represents those who admit to binge drinking and the red represents those who suffer from heavy alcohol abuse.
Whereas a larger percentage of the white population reports regular and moderate use of alcohol, all ethnicities suffer from binge drinking and heavy use at a fairly consistent rate.
Given enough time in any people group, alcohol will become a problem.
- Current drinkers consume on average 32.8 grams of pure alcohol per day.
- An estimated two-thirds of the American population consumes alcohol, but half of all the alcohol consumed in the country is consumed by only 10 percent of drinkers.
Total Alcohol Consumption in High Income Countries
Around the world, alcohol plays a significant cultural role in most societies.
This graph breaks it down by the number of liters consumed per year per person.
Austria leads the pack with 10.4 liters per person whereas Japan brings up the rear with only 5.6 liters per person.
One might speculate as to the cultural reasons that one country is ahead of the other, but most high income countries fall between 6 to 8 liters per person.
Binge Drinking Statistics
Binge Drinking Rate Amongst US Adults
Source: United Health Foundation
Another fascinating graph, it indicates that a pattern might exist for geographical reason.
The upper midwest shows a noticeable spike in binge drinking. Could it be the cold winters? Could it be population trends in those areas?
One might surmise, but the data is conclusive and geographically clustered.
Binge Drinking Trends by Gender
To this point, the data that shows men suffering the worst effects of alcohol have been conclusive.
However, this graph shows a trend that challenges the norm.
Whereas men suffer the worst of alcohol, the gap narrows significantly when it comes to binge drinking.
Young people between the ages of 18-25 are particularly susceptible to binge drinking.
Fortunately, the rate of men engaging in such behaviors have sharply declined since 2002.
Unfortunately, women have seen a noticeable spike since 2014.
As of 2018, both young men and women were engaging in binge drinking at a near equal rate.
U.S. College Students Binge Drinking Stats
This graph represents the percentage of U.S. college students who report having 5 or more drinks in one sitting over the past two weeks.
Approximately 25% of college students report an episode of binge drinking in the past two weeks with over 10% reporting multiple episodes.
This again highlights the dangers present when young people engage with alcohol.
They do not see the worst effects during their youth, but many are developing habits that will plague them in decades to come.
Students and Alcohol Stats
Top States Where US High School Students Report Drinking & Driving
Perhaps a more frightening statistic, these 10 states lead the way when it comes to underage drinking and driving.
It is worth noting that the states presenting in the top three, Arkansas, Lousianna, and Montana, they are all very rural states with low overall populations.
Arkansas and Louisiana border one another and are number 1 and 2 respectively.
It would appear that there is some geographical and cultural implications that put these two states significantly higher than the rest.
A Report of College Student Alcohol Use Over a 30 Day Period
Alcohol plays a significant role on most college campuses.
In fact, many believe that the entire social life at college revolves specifically around alcohol, despite the fact that the average college student is under age.
Over 61% of college students report drinking in the past 30 days with over 34% reporting the use of alcohol in the past 5 days.
While the dangers of alcohol abuse are very much a problem for college students, it is clear that major cultural shift would have to take place for it to change.
From Greek life to college gameday tailgates, alcohol and college are joined at the hip.
Annual Prevalence of Alcohol Use by Grades 8, 10, and 12 Combined
A perhaps more encouraging graph, the data of high school students using alcohol shows a significant drop from 1991 to present.
Since 1997, it has been on a steady decline without going back up.
The hope would be that this would translate to a sharp drop in alcohol related deaths as this age group enters their 40’s and 50’s, which represents the time frame when chronic alcohol use begins to kill at a higher rate.
Percentage of High School Students Who Consume Alcohol by Gender & Sexual Orientation
This graph breaks down the data of students who report drinking in their lifetime by their gender and sexual orientation.
Again, the data shows alcohol’s consistent effect on human beings. There seems to be little variation between sexual orientation and the standard norms. Though lesbian and gay teens report a slightly higher rate.
There is, however, a sharp jump in female teens who report as bisexual.
U.S. Students Driving a Car After Drinking Alcohol by Gender & Grade in 2017
It is frightening to consider that over 8% of high school seniors reporting drinking and driving.
When separated out by gender, boys continue to lead the way with problematic drinking as over 10% of male high school seniors report driving under the influence.
Even more frightening is that fact that teens as early as 9th grade are already mixing alcohol and motor vehicles.
In every grade, young men continue to outpace the young women.
Women and Alcohol Stats
U.S. States with the Highest Percentage of Women Who Drank While Pregnant in 2018
Sources: United Health Foundation; CDC
On the average, 8% of women report drinking while pregnant.
Whereas the science is pretty conclusive and would discourage women from drinking while pregnant, there are still those who believe a few ounces of wine is acceptable.
Then, there are women who drink as much as they want with little regard for the life inside of them.
This graph represents the 5 states with the highest percentage of women drinking while pregnant.
Vermont leads the with women reportedly drinking while pregnant at nearly twice the national average.
Alcohol Consumption Among Pregnant U.S. Women by Age
Sources: CDC (BRFSS); MMWR
While drinking among pregnant women is always a problem, it seems to have its worst effects in their youth and when they are older.
This particular graph breaks it down by age, but also between styles of drinking.
The blue represents a current and moderate level of drinking while the orange represents heavy binge drinking.
The data shows that 11.4% of women ages 18-24 report drinking while pregnant at a current pace.
However, this age range represents the highest amount of binge drinking which has substantially more effects on the baby.
This number drops as the mothers age, but by the time they are in their late 30’sor early 40’s, the number skyrockets.
This likely represents a lifetime and pattern of habitual drinking, of which, they are unable to let go when they become pregnant later in life.
*Note: Disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) represent a time-based measure of overall burden of disease for a given population. DALYs are the sum of years of life lost due to premature mortality as well as years of life lost due to time lived in less than full health.
*Note: Alcohol-attributable deaths are defined as the number of deaths attributable to alcohol consumption. They assume a counterfactual scenario of no alcohol consumption. Thus, alcohol-attributable deaths are those deaths that would not have happened without the presence of alcohol