Liver Disease Is on the Rise.  Why?

Liver Disease Is on the Rise.  Why?

A few years ago, physicians, like Elliot Tapper at the University of Michigan Medical School, began noticing an alarming increase in the number of young adults seeking help for liver disease.

Their observation led them on a quest to understand why.

The medical journal BMJ has just published the results of their research, and it’s disturbing.

After analyzing death rates from cirrhosis and liver cancer taken from Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data covering the years from 1999 to 2016, a pattern emerged showing that deaths from liver-related illnesses have increased dramatically and that mortality from this cause in young people was rising the fastest.

The reason?

Chronic and excessive alcohol consumption.

The data clearly shows that the number of 25-34-year olds who’ve died of alcohol-related liver disease almost tripled from 1999-2016, with whites and Native American young people being the hardest hit.

And rising alcohol-related liver disease death rates have also closely mirrored the rise in binge drinking observed across much of the U.S.

Another factor?

Economic despair.

The sharpest rise in liver-related illnesses and deaths coincided with the collapse of the U.S. economy in 2009 – leading to speculation that the emotional burden of the economic collapse may have proved too much for this demographic.

Are there other studies showing similar trends?


A report published in early July by the CDC shows an increase of 43 percent in the age-adjusted death rate from liver cancer since 2000.  Another 2018 study of U.S. veterans found that cirrhosis cases nearly doubled between 2001 and 2013.

What’s most interesting about the recent BMJ study is that it challenges the long-held belief that liver disease from alcohol consumption normally takes 30 years to develop.  That assumption is clearly not true.

Are their options?

Some policymakers want to see much higher taxes placed on alcoholic beverages – or higher prices. Others are calling for increased public spending on mental health programs targeting young alcoholics.

One thing is certain.  The liver is a very resilient organ, and most alcohol-related liver disease is reversible.  The key is effective treatment and sustained abstinence.

If you or a loved one is struggling with an addiction to alcohol and/or drugs and need help in Connecticut, New Hampshire or southern Maine, the recovery teams at Aware Recovery Care are here to help.  Our unique model of care is giving clients a 6X better chance of recovery when compared to traditional inpatient rehab care.  To learn more or to talk to one of our Recovery Specialists, visit