Wisconsin alcohol deaths up 25%

Alcohol-related deaths in Wisconsin rose almost 25% in 2020, according to a report released Thursday.

Data compiled by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum shows 1,077 Wisconsin residents died of alcohol-related causes in 2020, up from 865 in 2019. The data was compiled from U.S. residents’ death certificates.

The report uses the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s definition of alcohol-related deaths to mean deaths directly attributed to excessive drinking such as alcohol poisoning and liver disease. The definition does not include deaths caused by drunken driving or alcohol-fueled violence.

Overall, Wisconsin residents died from alcohol-related causes at a rate nearly 25% higher than the nationwide rate in 2020.

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The report speculates that the increase in deaths may be driving by higher rates of binge-drinking in Wisconsin and the state’s history of high alcohol consumption. Alcohol use also has risen considerably amid the stress and isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the report noted.

Researchers note Wisconsinites are buying and consuming more alcohol and these trends are likely to continue.

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"We all understand the stress we’ve been under since 2020," said Mark Sommerhauser, Wisconsin Policy Form communications director. "Stress can obviously be a contributing factor to substance use, and in some cases, substance abuse.  It’s difficult to pinpoint any one thing."

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