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Excessive drinking causes 500 deaths a year in Utah

Published March 14, 2014 10:43 am

Report • State had the lowest rate among 11 states studied.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

While Utah averages more than 500 deaths a year due to excessive drinking, the state still has the lowest rate among 11 select states, according to a report released Thursday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New Mexico had the highest death rate due to excessive drinking, with more than 1,000 deaths annually, the report on Alcohol-Attributable Deaths and Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL) shows.

Other states involved in the study were California, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The 11 states are part of an alcohol subcommittee formed through the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. They began collaborating in hopes of better understanding the impact of alcohol in their states.

To get the results, the committee compiled five years of health data from 2006 to 2010 using the CDC's Alcohol-Related Disease Impact software.

The study showed that excessive alcohol use is the fourth-leading cause of preventable death in the United States and cost an estimated $223.5 billion in 2006.

In Utah, there were an average of 513 deaths and 15,760 YPLL annually from 2006 to 2010 due to excessive drinking. Nearly 73 percent of these deaths involved working-aged (20-64 years) adults, the figures show.

When the numbers are based on population, Utah again had the lowest annual rate, with 22.4 alcohol-attributable deaths for every 100,000 residents. New Mexico averaged 50.9 alcohol-related deaths a year for every 100,000 people, the highest rate among the 11 states.

In all, there were 54 causes of alcohol-attributable deaths that ranged from liver disease to murder at the hand of someone who had been drinking.

"In Utah, over the five-year study period, the top causes of alcohol-attributable deaths were suicide, motor vehicle crashes and alcohol liver disease," said Joanna Watson, CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service officer with the Utah Department of Health.

The report also highlighted geographic and demographic disparities across the country. Deaths and years of life lost are particularly high among American Indian populations.

In Utah, for example, there were about 61 deaths per 100,000 people among American Indian residents compared with 22 deaths per 100,000 people among white non-Hispanics.

Gender also plays a factor, as men in Utah are twice as likely as women to drink excessively. Over the five-year study period, more than 350 Utah men died annually from alcohol-attributable deaths compared with 158 women.

Watson said because of the comprehensive nature of the data, there is no way to compare the new numbers with those from earlier time periods.

"However, this will be a great baseline that will be able to be repeated in the future for comparison," she said, adding that the statistics are critical to Utah and the nation as a whole.

"The main point," she said, "is that these deaths are preventable."

kathys@sltrib.com