Treating alcohol-related liver disease has become much more expensive, study finds

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With the increase in dangerous levels of drinking throughout the country, experts are raising alarms about the foreseeable impact of alcohol-associated liver disease (ALD).

The costs of treating ALD are expected to soar from $31 billion in 2022 to a staggering $66 billion by 2040.

This prediction has been outlined in a recently released report in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, spearheaded by researchers from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, illuminating a pressing economic and public health concern.

Understanding the Growing Problem

Regular excessive drinking has become a norm in our society, and the corresponding health and economic burdens are often overlooked. Yet, these consequences are avoidable.

Interventions and policy-level actions are crucial to lessen both the health and economic strains induced by ALD.

It is important for the nation to be ready to face the impending impact of liver diseases spurred by excessive alcohol consumption.

The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines heavy drinking as four drinks per day or 14 per week for men and three per day or seven per week for women.

Such drinking behaviors are exceedingly harmful, with 140,000 people in the U.S. succumbing to alcohol-related causes every year.

These figures are comparable to the number of deaths from drug overdoses, highlighting the severity of the issue.

The Economic and Human Cost

The overall costs from 2022 to 2040 are predicted to be $880 billion, encompassing both direct health care-related costs ($355 billion) and lost labor and economic consumption ($525 billion).

This looming economic burden is coupled with a projected increase in deaths. If the current trend in high-risk drinking continues, about 956,000 people will lose their lives annually due to ALD in two decades.

Particularly alarming is the rapid increase in cases among women and young people, with the percentage of ALD costs related to female drinkers expected to escalate by nearly 50% in the forthcoming two decades.

The Effects of the Pandemic

The pandemic played a significant role in escalating alcohol consumption, with lockdowns, lax rules on alcohol delivery, and work-from-home scenarios contributing to the rise.

A substantial number of moderate drinkers transitioned to high-risk drinking, with the pandemic years anticipated to result in at least 8,000 additional deaths from alcohol-related causes in the subsequent decade.

The heightened alcohol consumption among women and young people during this period is particularly concerning, potentially leading to lasting impacts throughout their lives.

Raising awareness about high-risk drinking and developing effective treatments for advanced liver disease should be a priority for political and public health leaders.


The increase in alcohol consumption and the resulting early deaths due to preventable diseases like ALD are detrimental to families, communities, and the broader society.

Addressing societal stress, which often drives people to high-risk drinking, and implementing multi-faceted strategies to counter this alcohol consumption crisis are imperative.

Research studies like this one aim to present tangible economic evidence to inform health officials and decision-makers, emphasizing their responsibility to act.

These quantitative evaluations illustrate the profound economic and health burdens of ALD, but they cannot capture the void left in a community when someone succumbs prematurely to such a devastating disease.

The economic ramifications, although significant, are only one aspect of the multifaceted impacts of alcohol-associated liver disease on society.

If you care about liver health, please read studies about simple habit that could give you a healthy liver, and common diabetes drug that may reverse liver inflammation.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about simple blood test that could detect your risk of fatty liver disease, and results showing this green diet may strongly lower non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

The research findings can be found in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

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