A new study came out recently, which indicates that more young adults are dying of alcohol-related diseases – such as liver cancer and cirrhosis. This is all very interesting to me as I have had health problems related to my liver. Over the last 2 years, I’ve been trying to ensure that my diet and lifestyle are reflective of what it means to have a healthy liver. Easier said than done. When it comes to the liver, there are things that make it really easy to have an unhealthy liver. Eating too much fat, or processed sugar, for example, can enlarge your liver. But these kids aren’t dying from that. They’re actually dying from over drinking. While I did my fair share of drinking when I was younger, I can’t imagine drinking that much to end up with something serious like cirrhosis.
Researchers at the University of Michigan studied death certificate data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 1999 to 2016, nearly half a million Americans had died from cirrhosis, a chronic liver disease where the organ becomes gradually and irreversibly scarred and can eventually fail completely. More than 130,000 of those killed also had hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of liver cancer that is usually brought on by cirrhosis.
Compared to 1999, the researchers found that the annual rate of cirrhosis deaths jumped by 63% by 2016, while liver cancer deaths doubled. This is also a stark rise, given the fact that the death rate for cancer, in general, had actually dropped during this time period. This is in addition to cardiovascular disease, infections, and respiratory disease. All of this is kind of weird, isn’t it?
What might be even weirder is that this is a condition that can take years, even decades to become deadly. So why are young people experiencing this the most? Not only that but in these instances, cirrhosis was almost always attributed to alcohol use. Another interesting fact about this study – these statistics especially ring true for white people and Native Americans, as well as people living in the southern and western United States. There was only one state – Maryland – that saw an improvement in cirrhosis deaths over the 18-year study.
One suggestion for why this happened could be the 2008 recession. Other factors driving the increase among older adults include things like the rise of obesity and diabetes. But that doesn’t suggest why younger people are dying as a result. This whole scenario seems like it’s a bit of an anomaly – especially given the fact that it takes years to develop. This makes you wonder if there are other reasons for the deaths – like Hepatitis C? Regardless, liver disease of any kind is reversible, so understanding if you have it is the first step in treating it so that you can live a long and healthy life.