University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Increased Alcohol-Related Mortality in Wisconsin Pre-COVID: A Two-Decade Trend

Lynne Cotter, MPH; Thomas Bentley, MS; Pamela Imm, MS; Paul D. Creswell, PhD

WMJ. 2022;121(4):269-273

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Introduction: Alcohol-related mortality is increasing nationally, but state-specific trends still need to be explored. This paper reviews the patterning of alcohol-related deaths among Wisconsin residents in the 2 decades prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: Data are from death certificates for state residents from 2000 through 2019. We used underlying cause of death codes (ICD-10) to classify deaths as 100% attributable to alcohol (ie, acute, chronic liver, and other chronic). Demographic characteristics were available for the most recent decedents (2015-2019). We assess trends in alcohol-related mortality and used chi-square tests to assess demographic differences compared to deaths from all other causes.

Results: The number of alcohol-related deaths more than doubled from 2000 through 2019 in Wisconsin, rising from 394 in 2000 to 857 in 2019. In the 5 most recent years (2015-2019), the populations with significantly higher rates of alcohol-related deaths included men, middle-aged adults, Black residents, and those of Hispanic descent. Education level also was significantly related to alcohol-attributable mortality, as those with the highest and lowest education levels were the least likely to die from this cause.

Discussion/Conclusions: Results of these analyses show that the number of deaths due to alcohol-related diseases has risen significantly since 2000, and this trend preceded the COVID-19 pandemic. These rising mortality rates deserve the attention of the medical and public health communities. Our findings show that, in recent years, Hispanic individuals, men, and middle-aged adults are at a higher risk for alcohol-related deaths. Stakeholders may wish to consider interventions targeted to these groups.

Author Affiliations: University of Wisconsin (UW) School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Madison, Wisconsin (Cotter); Bureau of Prevention Treatment and Recovery, Division of Care and Treatment Services, Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), Madison, Wis (Bentley); UW Population Health Institute, Madison, Wis (Imm); Bureau of Community Health Promotion, Wisconsin DHS, Madison, Wis (Imm); UW School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wis (Creswell); Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health, Wisconsin DHS, Madison, Wis (Creswell).
Corresponding Author: Paul D. Creswell, PhD, Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 1 W Wilson St, Room 150, Madison, WI 53703; email; ORCID ID 0000-0001-8432-0017
Funding/Support: None declared.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
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