Why Have Alcohol-Related Deaths Increased Since 2020?

why have alcohol related deaths increase since 2020

Alcohol abuse has been a common problem in America for decades. Because alcohol is easy to obtain and it is considered socially acceptable to drink in excess, millions of Americans engage in problematic drinking each year. Excessive drinking often leads to alcoholism, which can severely impact your ability to function in your daily life and lead to life-threatening health consequences.

While alcoholism has always been an issue in the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic caused alcohol abuse and alcohol-related death to increase substantially.

But what does the pandemic have to do with drinking alcohol?

During the pandemic, Americans were put under various stressors, some of which were related to COVID-19-related issues, political unrest, workplace issues, and financial strain. When you combine collective stress and grief with social isolation and difficulties accessing healthcare, it’s easy to see how alcoholism would increase.

Understanding how the pandemic has caused a rise in alcohol abuse and alcohol-related deaths can help you and your loved ones find the motivation to access the support you need.

Alcohol-Related Deaths Began Increasing During the Pandemic

According to the Associated Press, the alcohol death toll has been rising for decades at a rate of about 7% each year.[1] The United States was already dealing with significant alcohol abuse issues, but since the start of the pandemic, experts have seen concerning rises in alcohol-related illnesses and deaths.

The Associated Press reports that alcohol-related deaths rose by 26% in 2020 to about 13 deaths per 100,000 Americans.[1] This is the highest rate that has been recorded in at least 40 years, proving that the pandemic is causing people to abuse alcohol at alarming rates.

Another study highlighted in the Associated Press article showed that 1 in 8 deaths among U.S. adults ages 20 to 64 was alcohol-related.[1]

In 2021, the Massachusetts General Hospital published a press release regarding alcohol consumption during the pandemic. Because they found that excessive drinking had already risen substantially during the pandemic, experts decided to simulate the drinking trajectories to determine the rate of alcohol-related liver disease if the trends continued.

According to the press release, “a one-year increase in alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 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.”[2]

With that being said, it is clear that pandemic-related alcohol abuse is taking a significant toll on the country. It’s crucial to find ways to prevent excessive drinking and limit the consequences of the pandemic. Being aware of what caused people to increase their excessive alcohol consumption during the pandemic can make it easier for you to avoid following the same trend.

Why Is the Pandemic Causing the Alcohol Death Toll to Rise?

During the pandemic, just over 1 million people in America died from COVID-19.[3] Watching such a large number of people die from a virus is traumatic enough on its own. However, many people watched their friends and loved ones die or become seriously ill.

The stress and grief caused by the large death toll of COVID-19 are likely one of the reasons problematic drinking increased. Grief is linked to increased alcohol consumption, but so is experiencing a stressful life event.[4] Living through a global pandemic most definitely counts as a stressful life event, providing another reason for the increase in alcohol-related deaths.

Even further, many people were asked to socially distance themselves for long periods. While it is possible to continue a healthy social life from 6 feet away, many people experienced social isolation during the pandemic. Social isolation is known to be a huge trigger for alcoholism, as it increases mental health issues like depression.

Lastly, during the height of the pandemic, it became difficult to access healthcare. Because hospitals were full of COVID patients, many people were asked to avoid seeking treatment unless they required emergency care.[5] This most likely made it difficult for people with alcohol-related illnesses to receive the treatment they needed, contributing to the spike in alcohol-related deaths.

How to Tell If You Need Help for Alcoholism

If you or a loved one began abusing alcohol over the last couple of years, you are not alone. Many people struggled with alcohol abuse as a result of a variety of factors, including increased social isolation, depression, and grief. However, it can be difficult to tell whether your drinking habits require professional treatment.

Signs you need treatment for alcohol abuse or alcoholism include:

  • Having a hard time limiting how much you drink in one sitting
  • Experiencing cravings for alcohol when you aren’t currently drinking it
  • Drinking alone or in secret to prevent people from realizing how much alcohol you consume
  • Isolating from friends and family to abuse alcohol
  • Using alcohol in inappropriate situations
  • Attempting to quit or cut back on your alcohol use and being unsuccessful
  • Experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when you are not under the influence

No matter how minor a drinking problem may seem, getting alcoholism treatment can be life-changing, saving you from alcohol-related death. Even mild alcohol use disorder can progress into something severe, so it is better to seek support sooner rather than later.

Find Help for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Today

If you or a loved one suffer from alcoholism, help is available. Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to an array of consequences, including severe and life-threatening medical conditions. However, alcohol rehab can provide you with the support and tools you need to overcome the disease of alcoholism.

At Moving Mountains Recovery, we understand the seriousness of alcohol addiction, especially since it is the most common addiction that our clients struggle with. The objective at Moving Mountains is to help clients recover in a safe and comfortable environment, with an abundance of peer and clinical support.

We have therapies available to empower clients through their own recovery while uncovering their passion in life without the use of drugs or alcohol. Our staff is equipped and ready to help with any questions or concerns. Make the life-changing phone call today.


  1. https://apnews.com/article/alcohol-death-toll-rising-pandemic-c25878b044f46b1cd275a8e2738148a5
  2. https://www.massgeneral.org/news/press-release/alcohol-consumption-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-projected-to-cause-more-liver-disease-and-deaths
  3. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3286419/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8834942/
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