Study: 12 Percent of Indian Deaths Due to Alcohol

Mary Clare Jalonick, AP, August 28, 2008

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[A] report released Thursday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found 11.7 percent of deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives between 2001 and 2005 were alcohol-related, compared with 3.3 percent for the U.S. as a whole.

Dwayne Jarman, a CDC epidemiologist who works for the Indian Health Service and is one of the study’s authors, said it is the first national survey that measures American Indian deaths due to alcohol. It should be a “call to action” for federal, state, local and tribal governments, he said.

The researchers obtained their statistics by analyzing death certificates over the four-year period.

The two leading causes of alcohol-related deaths among Indians were traffic accidents and alcoholic liver disease, each of which cause more than a quarter of the 1,514 alcohol-related deaths over the four-year period.

Also listed are homicide (6.6 percent of alcohol-related deaths), suicide (5.2 percent) and injuries in falls (2.2 percent).

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The study said more than 68 percent of the Indians whose deaths were attributed to alcohol were men, and 66 percent were people younger than 50 years old. Seven percent were less than 20 years old.

The study recommends “culturally appropriate clinical interventions” to reducing excessive drinking and better integration between tribal health care centers and tribal courts, which often deal with alcohol-related crimes.

Donovan Antelope, a spokesman for the Northern Arapaho Tribe, said alcoholism has been a problem for more than a century with many Indian populations.

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