BOSTON, MA—The prevalence of chronic liver diseases has more than doubled in the past 30 years among adolescents and young adults in the United States to about 25%, according to research presented at The Liver Meeting® 2016.

Rates appear to have plateaued since 2004, however.

“On multivariable analysis, older age, male gender, being overweight/obese, ethnicity (Mexican-American) and later study period were found to be associated with chronic liver diseases,” noted lead study author Naim Alkhouri, MD, of the Digestive Disease Institute, Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, OH.

Chronic liver disease risk factors such as obesity (for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease [NAFLD]), alcohol use, and intravenous drug use have become more common among adolescents and young adults over time.

The authors studied trends using cross-sectional data from 14,547 adolescents and young adults aged 15–39 years from the CDC NHANES database for three periods: 1988–1994, 1999–2004, and 2005–2010. Antibody-confirmed hepatitis C virus (HCV) was also recorded.

Alcoholic liver disease was defined as excessive alcohol use, 3 or more drinks per day for men and 2 or more for women, and elevated liver enzymes.

“There was a sharp increase in prevalence of chronic liver diseases from 1988–1994 (12.9% [10.5, 15.2]) to 1999–2004 periods (28.5% [26.6, 30.4], P<0.001), after which it seems to have stabilized (27.7% [25.7, 29.6]),” Dr. Alkhouri reported.

The trends were noted for all ethnic subgroups, both sexes, and among those who were overweight or obese.

“NAFLD was by far the most common etiology for chronic liver diseases in adolescents and young adults with a sharp increase in its prevalence between the earlier and later time periods, accounting for 23% of all chronic liver diseases,” noted Dr. Alkhouri.

Alcoholic liver disease prevalence has “slowly and steadily” increased to 5% of adolescents and young adults, while HCV prevalence has declined, he reported.