(Salt Lake City, UT) – A new report from the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) estimates alcohol may be a contributing factor in more than 700 deaths in Utah each year. These deaths may include motor vehicle crashes, falls, suicides, etc. From 2010-2012, an average of 33 people died each year from alcohol poisoning, making Utah seventh highest in the nation for the number of alcohol poisoning deaths.
“Excessive alcohol use, and binge drinking in particular, is an under recognized public health problem. Many people who engage of this type of behavior may not realize the impact it has on their health. They might think it’s only people who have an alcohol use disorder who will be negatively affected,” said Anna Buckner, an epidemiologist with the UDOH Violence and Injury Prevention Program.
Excessive alcohol use, which cost an estimated $1.2 billion in lost productivity, health care, and criminal justice-related expenses in 2014 in Utah, is associated with a number of health and social harms, including liver cirrhosis, certain cancers, unintentional injuries, violence, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
In 2016, 13.4% of Utahns reported excessive alcohol use, the majority of whom reported binge drinking. Excessive alcohol use includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, any alcohol use by a woman who is pregnant, and any alcohol use by persons younger than age 21. Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks in a single session for a woman or five or more drinks in a single session for a man.
“Binge drinking was more common among Utahns with lower education and income levels, among minority populations, and younger individuals,” said Buckner.
Other findings from the report showed in 2016:
• Among Utahns aged 20 and older, death rates for alcohol-related causes were 38.6 per 100,000, making excessive alcohol use and its effects a leading cause of death in Utah for that age group.
• At least 5,400 emergency department (ED) visits and 3,100 hospitalizations occurred in Utah in 2014 due to alcohol-attributable causes and this is likely an underestimate.
• Binge drinking was more prevalent among males (16.7%) compared with females (8.3%).
• Binge drinking decreased as a person aged. Only 1.7% of Utahns aged 65 and older reported binge drinking in the last 30 days compared to 18.4% of Utahns aged 18 to 34.
• Utahns aged 25 and older with a high school degree/GED or less education reported binge drinking significantly more than those with some post high school education or a college degree.
• Utahns who identified as homosexual, bisexual, or another non-heterosexual orientation had a higher rate of binge drinking (17.2% higher) compared with the Utah population overall.
• Utahns who identified as American Indian/Native Alaskan (18.3%) or Hispanic (16.5%) reported the highest prevalence of binge drinking compared with other races and ethnicities.
“Our goal in collecting this type of data is to identify communities at greatest risk of negative health outcomes due to excessive alcohol use as well as to guide prevention and policy efforts,” said Buckner.
For a copy of the full report, Excessive Alcohol Use in Utah, visit www.health.utah.gov/vipp/
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