Lockdowns increased deaths attributed to alcohol in Minnesota

On April 15th, the Minnesota Department of Health released data suggesting that Minnesota faced an increase in deaths attributed to alcohol in 2020, compared to prior years. Historically, fully alcohol-attributed deaths — “deaths that would not have happened if alcohol had not been consumed” — have been going up in recent years. But factors associated with the pandemic, like lockdowns, accelerated the trend.

According to MDH, the data does not include “partially alcohol-attributable causes of death for which alcohol was one of several factors contributing to a death.” This means that the full impact of excessive drinking during the pandemic is understated,

Source: Minnesota Department of Health

“The deaths of so many Minnesotans from alcohol is tragic and preventable,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “Sadly, the pandemic has amplified some of the root causes of substance use and substance use disorders, such as social isolation, job loss and lack of access to treatment. In response, we need to strengthen overall opportunities in our communities for connectedness and financial security as well as specific evidence-based community strategies to reduce excessive alcohol use.”

The deaths from alcohol use in 2020 mirrored similar trends to recent years, until the number of alcohol-attributable deaths started to accelerate in June of last year. This mid-year acceleration is thought to be due in part to factors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In 2020, we saw that after May, alcohol-related deaths continued to stay elevated and 171 more Minnesotans died in 2020 compared to 2019, which is a larger jump than the trend prior to the pandemic,” said Kari Gloppen, MDH alcohol epidemiologist. Studies show that excessive drinking affects your brain, heart, liver, digestive system and even your immune system. Alcohol is also a carcinogen that has been linked to several types of cancer.”

Source: Minnesota Department of Health

Alcohol attributed deaths are, unfortunately, only one of the many ways that excessive alcohol use wreaked havoc during the pandemic. Increased use of alcohol at home, for instance, heavily contributed to an increase in domestic violence. Excessive drinking also has significant economic costs.

Once again we see just how costly the COVID-19 restrictions have been to people’s lives.