By Gene Emery
(Reuters) - Alcohol-related deaths in the United States rose sharply from roughly 2012 through 2016, with the biggest increases among white and Latino women, according to a new study by researchers who called the trend "an urgent public health crisis."
They also said the trend appears to have continued beyond 2016, but did not offer a theory for its causes.
The findings, published on Friday in JAMA Open Network, was based on death certificate data dating from 2000. It showed declines in alcohol-related deaths among some groups during the early part of this century, but those promising trends flipped dramatically in recent years.
For example, while the alcohol-related death rate among men declined by an average of 0.6% per year from 2000 to 2005, it rose 4.2% per year from 2012 to 2016.
Among all women, the death rate jumped 7.1% per year from 2013 to 2016, while for white women the annual increase was 7.8%. Among Latino women it was up 5.6% per year beginning in 2012.
"The steepest increases in the rates of alcohol-induced deaths among white individuals in our study population occurred among younger adults, particularly women," the researchers said.
"It seems like the trends are continuing in the 2017 data," senior author Neal Freedman of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics at the National Cancer Institute told Reuters in a telephone interview.
The reason behind the trends "is a question we really need to answer," he said, calling the situation "an urgent public health crisis."
While the percent increases were sharpest among women, they are still not close to men in terms of actual numbers.
For every 10 women who died from alcohol-related causes in 2016, 27 men died. The causes included overdose, organ damage, or mental problems related to liquor.
Deaths where alcohol was not the direct cause, such as alcohol-related cancers or alcohol-related traffic accidents were not included in the data. Alcoholic liver disease accounted for 63% of the deaths in 2016.
White men showed a smaller percentage increase than white women in recent years at 4.4% annually.
Alcohol deaths among black and Latino men had declined until about 2012 and 2013, researchers found.
Annual increases after that were 4.1% among Latino males and 2.7% among black men. Black women had an increase of 3.1% per year from 2007 through 2016.
The alcohol-related death rate rose steadily over the 17-year period among Native Americans and indigenous Alaskans. For men it was up 3.3% per year and for women 4.2%.
(Reporting by Gene Emery; Editing by Bill Berkrot)