Recently published data from the CDC show a spike in the number of fatal liver disease deaths in young adults in the US. Since 1999, the number of liver disease deaths in the US in this age group has nearly tripled. Figure 1 presents the number of alcohol-related liver disease deaths in men and women ages 25–34 years old from 1999–2016.

Figure 1: US, Alcohol-Related Liver Disease Deaths, Men and Women, Ages 25–34 Years

Source: GlobalData; CDC, 2018; Tapper and Parikh, 2018                         © GlobalData

Fatal liver disease encompasses numerous different individual diseases that ultimately lead to progressive damage of the liver and eventually to liver malfunction and death. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, hepatitis C, liver cancer, and cirrhosis are examples of liver diseases, though not mutually exclusive, that can ultimately lead to fatal liver disease. The current spike in young adults has been associated with numerous risk factors including rising rates of obesity and liver cancer; however, the predominant culprit is excessive alcohol consumption.

Binge drinking has long been shown to have a significant impact on liver health and can lead to a fatty liver and ultimately cirrhosis, and death. There is an urgent need to better understand the causes of this recent rise in fatal liver disease in a population that historically has not been at great risk.