Rate of Alcohol-Induced Deaths Increasing in Southeast Michigan; White Males Have Highest Rates

Statewide, across genders and across racial groups, the rate of alcohol-induced deaths is increasing, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. This trend is also true for majority of the counties in Southeast Michigan, with the exception of two. Why alcohol-induced deaths are increasing remains unknown, but the data does show that Michigan men had higher rates of alcohol-induced death than women, and White Michiganders have had higher alcohol-induced death rates over the last decade, as compared to their Black counterparts.

Digging further into the data, we know that the rate of alcohol-induced deaths for men in Michigan in 2000 was 10.6 deaths per 100,000 people; by 2021 that increased to 21.7 deaths per 100,000 people. The largest increase for male alcohol-induced deaths took place between 2018 and 2021. Nationally, the New York Times sites a sharp increase in alcohol-related deaths for women. However, as data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service shows, while the trend has been steadily increasing since 2000 (rates increased from 3.3 per 100,000 people to 8.8 per 100,000 people), the males in Michigan have experienced the sharpest increase.

The trends amongst the White and Black populations in Michigan is not as straightforward. As noted, the White population in Michigan had the highest alcohol-induced death rate in 2021 at 15.5 deaths per 100,000 people. Since 2000 the alcohol-induced death rate amongst the White population in Michigan steadily increased from 6.3 alcohol-induced deaths per 100,000 people to 15.5. The alcohol-induced death for the Black population has not been as linear. Between 2000 and 2007 the alcohol-induced death rate decreased from 10.5 alcohol-induced deaths per 100,000 to 5.2. Then, between 2007 and 2018, there were both increases and decreases in the alcohol-induced death rates for the Black population, with the 2018 rate being reported at 6.6. Since 2018, the alcohol-induced death rate for the Black population increased from 6.6 to 14.4 in 2021.

Up until 2010, according to the data, Black males had the highest alcohol-induced death rate among Black males and females and White males and females. But, beginning in 2010 and through 2021, White men had the highest rate at 22.2 per 100,000 people in 2021. When examining the female population, it was often a trade-off from year-to-year whether it was the Black or White female population with the highest alcohol-induced death rate. In 2021, Black women had the highest rate at 9.4 deaths per 100,000 people.

When digging into the more local data, it is St. Clair County that regularly had the highest alcohol-induced death rate since at least 2007, despite Livingston County having the highest local rate in 2021. In 2021, the alcohol-induced death rate for Livingston County was 18.2 alcohol-induced deaths per 100,000 people. In 2018, Livingston County had an alcohol-induced death rate of 3.3 and by 2021 it had spiked to 18.2.

St. Clair County had the second-highest rate at 16.9. Wayne County, with Detroit data removed, had the lowest alcohol-induced death rate at 12; Detroit’s alcohol-induced death rate in 2021 was 13.3.

Despite St. Clair County regularly having the highest alcohol-induced death rate over the last decade, there was a decrease between 2020 and 2021. Monroe County also experienced a decrease in the alcohol-induced death rate between 2020 and 2021.

Overall, the trend of alcohol induced death rates increasing is evident. Exact reasons for it remain unknown, but publications touch on mental health, the pandemic and genetics as reasons. While trying to better understand the “why,” policies can also be put in place to help curb increasing rates. Some policy recommendations from the American Public Health Association include increasing alcohol taxes at the federal, state and local levels, limiting the number of stores that can sell alcohol in a community (and limiting clustering of such stores), lowering the Blood Alcohol Content level for drunk driving, increasing public awareness campaigns (similar to what has been done in the tobacco industry).  Strategies need to simultaneously occur at the individual-community-population level to ensure a holistic approach that is long-term and impactful.

Macomb County sees largest rate increases for drug-, alcohol-induced deaths

As with other regions Southeastern Michigan has rising drug-related death rates, which the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), have attributed to increased use and abuse of opioids. According to the CDC, opioid overdose death is an epidemic that can be found within even the quietest communities. In 2013, on the national scale, drug overdoses were the leading causes of injury death and 51 percent of those deaths were related to prescription drugs. While data at the county level on opioid specific deaths was unavailable, below are maps showing how drug-induced death rates have increased in every Southeastern Michigan county (where data is available) between 2003 and 2013. In addition to an increase in drug-induced death rates since 2003 there has also been an increase in alcohol-induced death rates and “all other causes” of death.

All of the information presented in this presented was obtained from the CDC. According to the CDC, data is unreliable if the number of deaths for a specific cause is too small to create an accurate rate. Additionally, some counties have suppressed rates, meaning the information obtained is below the determined “cut-off” value and the conditions for suppression are met, according to the CDC. Rates are per 100,000 residents.

Metro-Detroit Drug-induced Deaths 2003

Metro-Detroit Drug Induced Deaths 2013

Macomb County had the highest increase in drug-induced death rates between 2003 and 2013, with the rate climbing 16.2 per 100,000. In 2013 Macomb County had the second highest drug-induced death rate though at 29.2; Monroe County had the highest rate at 30.6. It was Washtenaw County that had the lowest drug-induced death rate in 2013 at 16.1; in 2003 the Washtenaw’s drug-induced death rate was 8.9.

In 2003 Monroe and St. Clair counties had too few drug-induced deaths (18 and 12, respectively) for reliable rates to be created. However, with such low drug-induced death numbers in 2003 for those two counties we can infer that Monroe and St. Clair counties also experienced an increase in their rates between 2003 and 2013, especially since the CDC was able to determine rates for 2013.

According to the CDC, those between the ages of 25 and 54 have the highest rate of opioid overdose deaths. While rates for drug-induced deaths at these age levels were not explicitly available, the data does show that Macomb County had 157 drug-induced deaths for residents between the ages of 25 and 54 in 2013. Monroe County had at least 20 such deaths, however numbers were not available for the 35-44 age group because the numbers were too small to report.

Metro-Detroit Alcohol Induced Deaths 2003

Metro-Detroit Alcohol Induced Deaths 2013

While there were fewer alcohol-induced deaths than drug-induced deaths in both 2003 and 2013 in each county with available data, there was still across-the-board increases between those dates. Of those documented rate increases, Macomb County again had the largest increase between 2003 and 2013 at 3.2. In 2013 Macomb County also had the highest alcohol-induced death rate of the counties in the region; this rate was 10.8.

Livingston, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties had to few of deaths for accurate rates to be presented.

Metro-Detroit Deaths 2003

Metro-Detroit Deaths 2013

As expected, the death rates for all other death throughout the region were much higher than either and both drug- and alcohol-induced death rates. One trend to note is that “other causes” death rates also increased between 2003 and 2013. St. Clair County had the largest increase at 184.9; its death rate in 2003 was 870.8 and in 2013 it was 1055.7. In 2013 St. Clair County had the highest rate and Washtenaw County had the lowest.

Just a few weeks ago we drilled down on how the death rate for white, middle aged population is increasing, largely in part to suicide and substance abuse. While numbers were unavailable for alcohol- and drug-induced death rates at the county levels for age groups, this post does highlight how deaths related to alcohol and drugs have been increasing over the last 10 years.