Dear AJPM Reader,

Alcohol consumption is a well-recognized behavioral risk factor for health. According to the CDC, about 1 in 6 U.S. adults binge drink (≥4 drinks per occasion for a woman, or ≥5 for a man) weekly, and about 95,000 deaths a year in the U.S. are attributable to excessive alcohol use, which cost the U.S. economy almost $250 billion in 2010.

Studies have shown that alcohol sales have escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the winter holiday season is rapidly approaching, which may also be a time of increased alcohol intake for many people, making this an especially timely topic. The implications of greater alcohol consumption in the midst of the pandemic are several, including negatively affecting the immune system, which could worsen the pandemic; disruptions in treatment for those addicted to alcohol and other substances; and potentially exacerbating the heightened levels of anxiety and stress experienced by many during this unprecedented global health crisis.

AJPM has published several recent articles on alcohol consumption addressing the prevalence of alcoholic liver disease mortality in the U.S., the association of discrimination with alcohol use disorder in sexual minority adults, and frequency of excessive alcohol consumption in the U.S.:

Yoon YH, Chen CM, Slater ME, Jung MK, White AM.
  • White non-Hispanics had a greater prevalence of alcoholic liver disease mortality, compared with Black non-Hispanics and Hispanics. Men continued to have higher rates of mortality, but the male-to-female ratios have decreased over the past 2 decades.

Fish JN, Exten C.
  • Gay and bisexual men aged 18–45 years had the highest prevalence rates of alcohol use disorder, while lesbian, gay, and bisexual women had the greatest odds of alcohol use disorder between the ages of 45 and 55 years. The association between discrimination and alcohol use disorder was found to be strongest among sexual minority men.

Esser MB, Sacks JJ, Sherk A, et al.
  • Prevalence estimates of binge-level drinking in a day and high average daily consumption were greater according to the National Alcohol Survey estimates of 26.1% and 8.2%, compared with the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System estimates of 17.4% and 3.3%. 

We hope you find these articles, as well as our October issue, to be timely, topical, and informative.

Yours in prevention and health,

Matthew L. Boulton, MD, MPH

American Journal of Preventive Medicine