SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – New Mexico leads the nation when it comes to deaths related to excessive alcohol use.
A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that New Mexico experienced more deaths per capita that were attributable to alcohol. That rate of 51 deaths per 100,000 people was more than any other state.
“New Mexico has very much struggled with alcohol,” Laura Tomedi, an alcohol epidemiologist for the New Mexico Department of Health, told The Santa Fe New Mexican. “We’ve led the nation since 1997. We have the highest alcohol-related death rate, and we lead the pack by a pretty fair margin.”
Excessive use of alcohol cut the life expectancy of New Mexicans by 11 percent annually, between 2006 and 2010 – more than any other state, according to the study. Researchers derived the percentage of annual years of potential life lost by comparing the ages of people who died due to alcohol-related causes with their life expectancy.
Nationally, the study found excessive drinking led to about 88,000 deaths per year from 2006 to 2010 and shortened the lives of those who died by about 30 years.
Tomedi said alcohol stands out among the causes of death that are preventable, especially given the large percentage of younger people who are affected.
The study’s authors found that excessive alcohol use is the third-leading preventable cause of death and is most prevalent among working-age adults.
Unlike tobacco use or obesity, which tend to kill later in life, deaths in which alcohol played a role struck a wide age range – from the very young to the very old – and were concentrated somewhere in between.
According to the study, deaths attributable to alcohol accounted for nearly 1 in 10 deaths nationally among working-age adults, ages 20 to 64, between 2006 and 2010. In New Mexico, alcohol-related deaths among working-age people accounted for 16.4 percent of all deaths, the highest proportion in the nation.
The study took into account a range of underlying alcohol-related causes of death, from liver disease to falls and auto accidents. It determined that deaths from immediate causes, such as crashes, only minimally outnumbered deaths from chronic alcohol-related conditions.
The study also found that access to health care as well as public policies can affect a state’s rates.
“States that are rural tend to have more alcohol-related deaths, and that has a lot to do with access to health care,” said Mandy Stahre, an epidemiologist at the Washington state Department of Health and the report’s lead author.
Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration is reviewing ways to regulate concentrated pockets of alcohol sales. It also is encouraging physicians to ask at least a few questions about alcohol consumption during regular visits with patients, Tomedi said.