As Americans are making plans for the Fourth of July holiday, a sobering new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may have some reconsidering how they celebrate.
The report indicates that one in 10 deaths in the United States is caused by alcohol. That’s 88,000 deaths per year from 2006 to 2010, according to the study’s findings, which were released Tuesday. It estimates that alcohol shortened the lives of those who died by as many as 30 years.
Some of those deaths were the result of diseases caused by chronic alcohol abuse, which the CDC defines as 15 or more drinks per week for men and eight or more drinks per week for women. But other deaths that were part of the study’s calculations were caused by binge drinking — defined as five or more drinks in a single bout for men and four or more drinks for women.
David Jernigan, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told NBC News the study should change the way people think about the consequences of drinking.
“When people think about alcohol problems, they think about addiction and motor vehicle crashes," he said, "but this shows that there are many ways to die from alcohol.”
Jernigan said the report indicates that people who aren’t addicted to alcohol are at the most risk.
“The big problem isn’t the addicts, but the binge drinkers who so far outnumber those who are addicted," he explained. "Anybody can have a problem if they drink to excess on a single occasion. You don’t have to be addicted to crash your car into a tree or fall into a pool or off a hotel balcony."
Dr. Robert Brewer, a researcher with the CDC’s Alcohol Program who participated in the study, told The Huffington Post that the most startling part of the findings is that alcohol is killing working-age adults.
"Excessive alcohol use is a huge public health problem,” he said. "It's killing people in the prime of their lives.”
Mandy Stahre, an epidemiologist at the Washington State Department of Health who helped with the study, agreed.
"We're talking about a large economic impact, people who are contributing to society," Stahre told USA Today. "They're in the prime of their lives, whether they're building up careers or mid-career. A lot of attention we tend to focus on is maybe college drinking or just drunk driving. This really talked about the broadness of the problem."
Although longterm alcohol abuse can cause liver disease, esophageal cancer and other health problems, the real killer, according to the study, is binge drinking.
"Binge drinking is associated with 51 percent of all deaths due to excessive drinking," Stahre told HealthDay. Those deaths usually occur because people are drinking while engaged in other activities. For instance, drinking “does not mix well with swimming or boating,” she said.
Jernigan hopes the report will cause Americans to use more caution when drinking.
“This report from the CDC is a good wake-up call for adults,” Jernigan said. “It’s a serious drug that causes serious harm.”