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Female Alcohol Use Has Increased Sharply Over the Years

— January 23, 2020

Researchers find that women are drinking larger amounts of alcohol than ever before.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recently analyzed death certificates and found the number of women drinking dangerous amounts of alcohol is rising sharply over the years in the United States.  The agency’s analysis reviewed fatalities nationwide from 1999 through 2017 that were reported as being caused by alcohol, including “acute overdose, chronic use, or in combination with other drugs” and found that alcohol related deaths rose 51 percent overall with the rate of female alcohol-induced deaths rising as much as 85 percent.  According to the authors, “Alcohol can directly cause death, in which case an alcohol‐induced cause is listed as the underlying cause in a death certificate, or it can contribute to a death as part of a chain of events, in which case an alcohol‐induced cause is listed as a multiple, or contributing, cause.”

“More women are drinking, and they are drinking more,” said Patricia Powell, deputy director of the alcohol institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health.  She added, “Part of being liberated from male dominance is being able to behave in which way you choose.  Some women have gotten the message that it’s liberating to drink like a man.”  And, this message has, thus, negatively impacted public health.

Female Alcohol Use has Increased Sharply Over the Years
Photo by Dave Lastovskiy on Unsplash

The report states, “18,072 women died from alcohol in 2017, according to death certificates, compared with 7,662 in 1999.”  This is compared to male deaths, which are still higher.  “In 2017, alcohol caused, at least in part, the fatalities of 72,558 men, compared to 35,914 in 1999.”

The study also found, “Along with recent increases in alcohol consumption in the United States, there have been significant increases in alcohol‐related harms.  Between 2006 and 2014, rates of emergency department (ED) visits involving alcohol increased 47.3% among persons aged 12+ (from 1,223 to 1,803 per 100,000 population) and the number of such visits increased 61.6% (from 3,080,214 to 4,976,136).  Similarly, from 2000 to 2015, rates of hospitalizations related to alcohol consumption increased 51.4% among persons aged 12+ (from 62.5 to 94.6 per 100,000 population) and the number of such visits increased 76.3% (from 1,461,700 to 2,576,600).”

“When you consider this analysis along with other studies that have come out over the last couple of years, an interesting pattern emerges,” according to Aaron White, PhD, a senior scientific adviser to the NIAAA and coauthor of the paper. “In the last 20 years, there’s been an increase in alcohol consumption in the United States. It’s not huge – it’s about an 8 percent increase per capita, but those increases were bigger for women.”

Experts said that the new findings could “partly reflect the fact that baby boomers are aging, and the health effects of chronic alcohol use have become more apparent.”  The increase in deaths might also “reflect the increase in opioid-related deaths, which in many cases can involve alcohol as well, and that would be reflected on death certificates.”

White said, “A growing body of research shows that alcohol tends to harm women more than it does men…involving heart health and some cancers.”  He also noted, “Teenage use of alcohol, while in decline from earlier generations, has also reflected a narrowing of the gap between the behaviors of girls and boys; 10th grade girls are now as likely to drink as boys, a sharp change over the decades.”


Alcohol Deaths Have Risen Sharply, Particularly Among Women

Alcohol-Related Deaths Are on the Rise, New Study Shows

Using Death Certificates to Explore Changes in Alcohol‐Related Mortality in the United States, 1999 to 2017

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