Health experts see increase in liver disease, alcohol use

Many people developed different habits throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Health experts are now seeing that heavy alcohol consumption was one of them.

Health experts are currently seeing a large increase in liver disease among men and women ages 25-34.

That increase, experts said, is driven by rising rates of alcohol use.

"We have to get better as providers at asking the appropriate questions to ask if patients are drinking too much and guide those people to treatment before its gets to liver disease," said Dr. Rita German, a UW Heath transplant hepatologist.

Historically, drinking does spike during times of trauma and stress. The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example.

"Before, people are at work, they can't start drinking at 2, 3 (o'clock) in the afternoon because they have to wait till they get home," said German. "Now people are home already, so they might start drinking earlier and many people cope with stress and anxiety by having a drink."

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According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), people have been drinking 14% more during the pandemic -- specifically women.

"Women I think, part of it is because they’ve taken part of the brunt of the stress of this pandemic from child care to trying to work," said German. "I think it's just how people have been coping."

German encourages everyone to be mindful of their alcohol consumption during this time and to also check on family members and seek help if needed.

"The one good thing that has come out of the pandemic is that a lot of things can be done virtually. People can have virtual AA and counseling sessions," said German. "There's a lot more resources available to people even now, and we want people to realize this is a disease like any other and we want them to come to us for help."


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