There are some staggering alcoholism statistics these days. The use of alcohol as a means to alter consciousness is on the rise, perhaps due to stress from job loss, additional responsibilities at work (so people turn to booze with or without the famed paycheck) and family demands. According to the National Health Interview Survey more than 50% of the population aged 18 or older uses alcohol as a stimulant/depressant. That doesn’t mean they are all alcoholics, but the social trend is that more people drink than not.
This trend towards social drinking accounts for much of the alcoholism in modern society, and while it can boost confidence in social situations, ease the blunt edge of stress, and make you temporarily forget your woes, the alcoholism statistics prove that drinking is fatal. There are over 14,000 annual deaths due to liver poisoning alone, and that doesn’t count drunk-driving accidents, or other drinking-related accidents, which hover around the 11,000 mark from year to year, varying slightly since 2008. Since the early 80s alcohol related deaths declined for many years, but the most recent statistics show that they are on the rise again.
Total annual mortality rates due to alcohol-related accidents and health issues are close to 35,000. The total annual traffic fatalities from all causes in the United States in 2009 (numbers are not yet available for 2010 and 2011) was around 350,000. This means that the alcoholism statistics we are looking at display a clean 10% causal rate. Although this seems small, it is large considering that alcohol-related deaths are largely self-imposed (we can choose to drink smaller amounts or not drink at all.) It could be zero.
What is even more interesting when reading through the statistics is the numbers proving that adolescents are drawn to drinking for just a few primary reasons, regardless of their ethnicity or socio-economic background. According to psychologist, Lynne Cooper, one of these is to deal with the stresses of school, and another is to just “have the sheer joy of drinking to deal with stress.” With feedback like this from high-school seniors, it is no wonder that alcoholism is starting younger and younger. With alcoholism statistics like these, it is important to educate people at younger and younger ages about the long-term effects of their temporary stress-reducing habit.
Although teens are taught history, accounting, English, math, etc. they are rarely given tools to reduce stress effectively in their everyday lives. Considering that most adults don’t have time or can’t model these healthy behaviors for teens at home, it is plausible that in order to reduce these unfavorable statistics, stress-management could be incorporated into western schools.
In fact, many eastern schools incorporate deep breathing, yoga, meditation, autogenic training, biofeedback, guided-imagery and other time management, organization and relaxation-techniques to help arm their young people with tools to face a constantly more rapid-paced society and its demands. Dr. Herbert Benson, of Harvard fame even coined the phrase ‘relaxation response’ as a means to deal with stress. If we could teach young people these tools instead of where the best pub or bar is located, then perhaps the alcoholism statistics would begin to change.