Special Report

Deaths From Alcohol-Related Cirrhosis Have Gone Up Almost Every Year Since 2000

Bill Oxford / Getty Images

The liver is an organ that can regenerate itself when damaged, but in the process of regeneration, scar tissue forms, making it increasingly difficult for the liver to function. Unlike other liver ailments, cirrhosis can almost never be reversed, and it is often fatal. (It killed a majority of these 25 famous people who drank themselves to death.)

Although hepatitis and other factors can contribute to cirrhosis, the major contributor to death by cirrhosis is alcohol abuse – and according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, both the rate and the total number of alcohol-induced cirrhosis deaths between 1970 and 2019 have increased every year except 2002.

Among all cirrhosis deaths, 50.3% were alcohol-related. The proportion of these deaths is highest among those ages 25 to 34, followed by those ages 35 to 44. 

In 2019, liver cirrhosis was the 11th-leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for a total of 47,919 deaths – 1,947 more than the prior year. And between 2000 and 2019, the age-adjusted death rate from alcohol-related liver cirrhosis increased by 47%, from 4.3 to 6.4 deaths per 100,000 population. (Cirrhosis is one of the dangerous conditions a simple blood test can help detect.)

While the rate for males rose 33% over the 2000-2019 period, the rate for females soared 83.5% over the same timeframe. Rates for white males and females increased by 43.5% and 106%, respectively, whereas rates for Black males and females slid by 20.7% and 7.9%. 

To find the number of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths in the U.S., 24/7 Tempo reviewed a surveillance report published in April 2022 by the NIAAA, an agency of the National Institutes of Health, on liver cirrhosis mortality in the country between 2000 and 2019. Cirrhosis death records came from public use mortality data files produced by the National Center for Health Statistics. These data files contained individual records of each death occurring in the U.S. in every year between 1970 and 2019. The rate for alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths as well as the total number are age-adjusted to fairly compared communities with different age structures. 

Click here to read about alcohol-related cirrhosis deaths over the past 20 years in America

The numbers and rates of death from alcohol-related cirrhosis per 100,000 people will likely increase. The report from the NIAAA does not include 2020, the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, when lockdowns contributed to a spike in alcohol abuse.

Source: NASA / Getty Images

2000
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 12,109 (8,985 male / 3,124 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 4.3 per 100K — 7th lowest
> Rate for female patients: 2.1 per 100K — 2nd lowest
> Rate for male patients: 6.8 per 100K — 8th lowest

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2001
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 12,207 (8,932 male / 3,275 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 4.3 per 100K — 6th lowest
> Rate for female patients: 2.2 per 100K — 7th lowest
> Rate for male patients: 6.6 per 100K — 6th lowest

Source: Mark Wilson / Getty Images

2002
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 12,121 (8,814 male / 3,307 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 4.2 per 100K — 5th lowest
> Rate for female patients: 2.2 per 100K — 6th lowest
> Rate for male patients: 6.4 per 100K — 5th lowest

Source: Scott Barbour / Getty Images

2003
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 12,360 (9,104 male / 3,256 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 4.2 per 100K — 4th lowest
> Rate for female patients: 2.1 per 100K — the lowest
> Rate for male patients: 6.4 per 100K — 4th lowest

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Source: Chris Jackson / Getty Images

2004
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 12,548 (9,155 male / 3,393 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 4.1 per 100K — 2nd lowest
> Rate for female patients: 2.2 per 100K — 4th lowest
> Rate for male patients: 6.3 per 100K — 2nd lowest

2005
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 12,928 (9,425 male / 3,503 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 4.2 per 100K — 3rd lowest
> Rate for female patients: 2.2 per 100K — 5th lowest
> Rate for male patients: 6.3 per 100K — 3rd lowest

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Source: Wathiq Khuzaie / Getty Images

2006
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 13,050 (9,443 male / 3,607 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 4.1 per 100K — the lowest
> Rate for female patients: 2.2 per 100K — 3rd lowest
> Rate for male patients: 6.2 per 100K — the lowest

Source: David Paul Morris / Getty Images

2007
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 14,406 (10,549 male / 3,857 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 4.5 per 100K — 10th lowest
> Rate for female patients: 2.3 per 100K — 8th lowest
> Rate for male patients: 6.8 per 100K — 10th lowest

Source: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

2008
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 14,864 (10,817 male / 4,047 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 4.5 per 100K — 9th lowest
> Rate for female patients: 2.4 per 100K — 9th lowest
> Rate for male patients: 6.8 per 100K — 9th lowest

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Source: Alex Wong / Getty Images

2009
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 15,183 (10,881 male / 4,302 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 4.5 per 100K — 8th lowest
> Rate for female patients: 2.5 per 100K — 10th lowest
> Rate for male patients: 6.7 per 100K — 7th lowest

Source: Chris Graythen / Getty Images

2010
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 15,990 (11,441 male / 4,549 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 4.7 per 100K — 10th highest
> Rate for female patients: 2.6 per 100K — 10th highest
> Rate for male patients: 6.9 per 100K — 10th highest

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Source: Majid Saeedi / Getty Images

2011
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 16,749 (11,847 male / 4,902 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 4.8 per 100K — 9th highest
> Rate for female patients: 2.8 per 100K — 9th highest
> Rate for male patients: 7.1 per 100K — 9th highest

Source: Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images

2012
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 17,419 (12,422 male / 4,997 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 5.0 per 100K — 8th highest
> Rate for female patients: 2.8 per 100K — 8th highest
> Rate for male patients: 7.3 per 100K — 8th highest

Source: Michael Buckner / Getty Images

2013
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 18,146 (12,991 male / 5,155 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 5.1 per 100K — 7th highest
> Rate for female patients: 2.9 per 100K — 7th highest
> Rate for male patients: 7.5 per 100K — 7th highest

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Source: Sean Gallup / Getty Images

2014
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 19,388 (13,666 male / 5,722 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 5.4 per 100K — 6th highest
> Rate for female patients: 3.2 per 100K — 6th highest
> Rate for male patients: 7.8 per 100K — 6th highest

Source: NASA / Getty Images

2015
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 21,028 (14,715 male / 6,313 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 5.8 per 100K — 5th highest
> Rate for female patients: 3.5 per 100K — 5th highest
> Rate for male patients: 8.3 per 100K — 5th highest

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Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images

2016
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 21,815 (15,150 male / 6,665 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 5.9 per 100K — 4th highest
> Rate for female patients: 3.6 per 100K — 4th highest
> Rate for male patients: 8.4 per 100K — 4th highest

Source: NASA / Getty Images

2017
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 22,246 (15,470 male / 6,776 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 6.0 per 100K — 3rd highest
> Rate for female patients: 3.6 per 100K — 3rd highest
> Rate for male patients: 8.5 per 100K — 3rd highest

Source: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

2018
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 23,172 (16,099 male / 7,073 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 6.1 per 100K — 2nd highest
> Rate for female patients: 3.7 per 100K — 2nd highest
> Rate for male patients: 8.7 per 100K — 2nd highest

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Source: Anthony Kwan / Getty Images

2019
> Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths 24,110 (16,650 male / 7,460 female)
> Rate of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis deaths: 6.4 per 100K — the highest
> Rate for female patients: 3.9 per 100K — the highest
> Rate for male patients: 9.0 per 100K — the highest

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