According to a new study (White et al., 2020), published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, investigators estimate deaths from alcohol-related problems have more than doubled over the past 20 years. While searching the data from the National Center for Health Statistics, researchers found in 2017, nearly 73,000 people died in the U.S. because of alcohol-related illnesses. This is double the number of deaths in 1999, which came to just under 36,000. Women and people who were middle-aged and older were some of the most significant increases found in the study.
Why Women Face Higher Risk of Alcohol-Related Harm, Illnesses, and Death
Researchers of the alcohol study found men died at a higher rate than women, but when evaluating the annual rise in deaths, the most substantial increase was among white women. According to an interview for National Public Radio, Aaron White (the study’s lead author) states, “With the rise in alcohol use among women, there have been increases in harms for women including ER visits, hospitalization, and deaths.” What are the factors contributing to women facing a greater risk of alcohol-related issues? According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “women start to have alcohol-related problems sooner and at lower drinking levels than men” for several reasons including:
- Women weigh less than men, on average.
- Alcohol resides mostly in body water, and pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies than men. This means that after a woman and a man of the same weight drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) tends to be higher, placing her at increased vulnerability for harm.
These biological differences combined with an increase in alcohol consumption are now putting women as a higher risk for alcohol-related illnesses (NIAAA) such as:
Heart Disease: Women are more susceptible to alcohol-related heart disease than men, even though they may consume less alcohol over their lifetime than men. Long-term alcoholism is a leading cause of heart disease.
Liver Damage: Women who regularly misuse alcohol are more likely than men who drink the same amount to develop cirrhosis of the liver or alcoholic hepatitis, a potentially fatal alcohol-related liver condition.
Breast Cancer: There is a link between drinking alcohol and developing breast cancer. Studies show that women who consume about one drink per day have a 5 to 9 percent higher chance of developing breast cancer than women who do not drink at all, and the risk increases for every additional drink they have per day.
Additional Statistics and Results
The study shows that in 2017, alcohol proved to be even more deadly than illicit drugs, including opioids. According to NPR, “There were about 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017, about 2,300 fewer than those involving alcohol. However, alcohol-related overdoses, either alone or with drugs, rose between 1999 and 2017.” Other alcohol-related causes of death included cancer, heart disease, and accidental injuries. Additional findings in the study included:
- 70.1% of the population aged 18 and older consumed alcohol in 2017, averaging approximately 3.6 gallons of pure alcohol per drinker.
- Acute alcohol‐related deaths increased more for people aged 55 to 64, but rates of chronic alcohol‐related deaths increased more for younger adults aged 25 to 34.
- While the overall prevalence of drinking and binge drinking did not change for men, there was a 10% increase in the prevalence of drinking and a 23% increase in binge drinking among women.
- Nearly 1 million alcohol‐related deaths were recorded between 1999 and 2017. In 2017, 2.6% of 2.8 million deaths in the U.S. involved alcohol.
- Increases in consumption were more significant for people aged 50 and older relative to younger age-groups.
Finding Help Before Alcohol Takes Your Life
Unhealthy alcohol use includes any drinking that puts your health or safety (as well as the safety of others) at risk or causes other alcohol-related problems. Signs that someone may have an alcohol use disorder include:
- Binge drinking
- Sneaking around or lying about drinking habits
- Drinking to deal with painful emotions or feelings
- Sudden personality changes or changes in appearance
- Weight loss and lethargy
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea and shaking, when you don’t drink
- Drinking alone
- No longer having an interest in activities or hobbies you once enjoyed
- Aggressive behavior
- Unable to limit (or stop) the amount of alcohol consumed or having strong cravings to drink alcohol
- Losing a job, friends, or a relationship due to drinking
If you or a loved one is suffering from alcoholism, find help right away. From affordable outpatient programs, intensive outpatient treatment, and individual counseling to cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR, SMART Recovery, and traditional 12-Step methods, we offer professional support and a customized treatment plan to help you end your battle with addiction and move on into a healthy and happy substance-free life. Don’t let your past steal your present; we are here to help. Call Silver Lining at 1-833-8GROWTH to get started on your road to recovery today.