A Census of Our Lost Lifetimes [Motion Graphic]

How Does Alcohol Affect Life Expectancy?

Alcohol can negatively affect life expectancy, even in individuals who drink in moderation. On the other hand, some research indicates that drinking small amounts of alcohol may actually benefit health. Are you inadvertently reducing your lifespan by having that extra glass of wine at night?

Alcohol and Life Expectancy

Multiple independent research studies clearly indicate the link between alcoholism and a wide number of serious health problems. In general, alcoholism lowers life expectancy by roughly ten or 12 years, according to the New York Times Health Guide. Also, making a habit of drinking early in life increases the risk of developing a life-threatening illness later on, the Times reports.

An individual with alcoholism is more likely to suffer a heart attack or heart failure, develop diabetes, have a stroke or develop lung disease. Alcoholism is also closely linked with fatal overdose, accidental death, violent crime, depression and anxiety, liver damage, gastrointestinal bleeding and postoperative complications. Alcoholism negatively affects sexual performance, too — erectile dysfunction is more likely to occur in those with a chronic drinking problem.

Alcohol Abuse and Life Expectancy

Alcohol also negatively affects life expectancy in those who may not meet the clinical definition of alcoholism but who casually abuse it instead. Binge drinking, defined as consuming more than four to five drinks over two hours, is closely associated with a wide range of health problems. Sexual assault, domestic violence and other serious crimes often feature alcohol as their common denominator.

Even the hangover — once thought of as the unfortunate result of one too many — causes significant health problems. Cognitive problems, as well as decreased hormonal and liver function, are all associated with hangovers. According to the Times, women who consume more than three drinks and men who have more than five drinks are at risk of hangover. Binge drinkers are more likely to have hangovers; people with alcoholism are less likely to get a hangover, but they are more likely to have health problems overall.

Don’t Become a Statistic

Have you ever wondered just how much life drugs and alcohol have taken from us? It turns out that the U.S. Census Bureau keeps detailed records of a statistic called Years of Potential Life Lost, or YPLL. This measures the average life expectancy against premature deaths.

If we were to add up all of the early deaths attributable to drug and alcohol abuse, we’d find that we lose an unthinkable 2,002,016 years of potential human life each year. You read that correctly; every calendar year, drugs and alcohol rob us of more than 2 million years of life.

This loss of life is equivalent to 25,439 complete, individual human lifetimes. What could we have done with all that lost time?

To find out, we consulted the most recent U.S. Census data and scaled it down to fit our smaller sampling of 25,439 individuals. You can see our lost potential for yourself in the video below.

Alcoholism and Other Addictions

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to Contact 12 Keys Rehab to learn more about how we can help.

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  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • GlobalDrugPolicy.org
  • National Center for Biotechnology Information
  • U.S. Census Bureau

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