Americans have been dying prematurely at unprecedented levels in the past two years from a number of causes.
COVID-19 has taken away almost one million of our fellow Americans, with the number still rising daily for the foreseeable future.
Fatal accidents on our roadways, as we noted last week, have skyrocketed over the past two years.
Drug overdose deaths, mainly attributable to the lethal synthetic drug fentanyl, have exploded, exceeding 100,000 in 2021, compared to about 60,000 in 2019.
However, another statistic came to our attention in an article in the New York Times which is equally tragic and worrisome:
Among adults younger than 65, alcohol-related deaths outnumbered deaths from COVID-19 in 2020. Alcohol-related causes accounted for the deaths of 74,408 Americans ages 16 to 64, compared to 74,075 deaths of individuals under 65 who died from COVID.
More ominously, the rate of increase for alcohol-related deaths in 2020 — 25 percent — outpaced the rate of increase of deaths from all causes, which was 16.6 percent.
Alcohol-related deaths went up for men and women, as well as for every ethnic and racial group. Deaths among men and women increased at about the same rate, though the absolute number of deaths among men was much higher.
However, death rates alone don’t tell the whole story of the direct and negative impacts that alcohol abuse has upon individuals, their family members, and our society as a whole.
Alcohol abuse is a crucial factor in just about every negative context one can imagine, ranging from domestic abuse, to violence among unrelated parties, to non-fatal traffic accidents that leave victims severely injured, to lost productivity in the workplace, to mental health issues, to health-care costs, to fetal alcohol syndrome.
Clearly, our society needs to undertake a public health campaign similar to what we did in the 1990s when the American public and politicians finally got tough on the tobacco companies by means of public health campaigns, increased taxes, and stricter enforcement of the laws prohibiting sales to minors.
Unlike tobacco or drugs, alcohol abuse impacts more than just the user — and it’s time that we acknowledge that reality and do something about it.