USA: Alcohol Deaths (in Women) Rise Sharply

Alcohol deaths rise sharply in the United States, specifically among women.

A new study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which analysed death certificate data on alcohol related deaths from 1999 to 2017, found:

  • Alcohol related deaths increased by 51% from 1999 to 2017 (from nearly 36,000 to nearly 73,000 deaths).
  • Among women alcohol-related deaths increased by a staggering 85% from 1999 to 2017 (from 7,662 women to 18,072).
  • Neary 1 million Americans died due to alcohol between 1999 and 2017.

Alcohol‐Related Mortality in the United States, 1999 to 2017

The researchers conducting the study actually say that the actual number of deaths is probably much higher than what their study found. This is because alcohol is not always noted in the death certificate if there was a more prominent cause of death, i.e. a fall that broke the hip will not include that alcohol caused the fall.

A previous analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on 2006 to 2010 data, put deaths due to alcohol use at 88,000 per year. That study relied on more data than death certificates.

Increasing death rates due to alcohol use has been in Movendi International news previously as well. Alcohol-related deaths also play a major role in the decreasing life-expectancy trend (since 2014 to 2017) in the United States.

USA: Alcohol-Related Deaths Rising

Another negative trend in which alcohol plays a major part is the rise in “deaths of despair” – a term coined by Dr. Anne Case and Dr. Angus Deaton. These deaths include, overdoses, suicides and liver disease and alcohol plays a role in all these deaths.

Alcohol-related deaths among women

While still more men are dying due to alcohol than women, the sharpest increase from 1999 to 2017 were among women’s death due to alcohol (85%).

Experts have discussed many causative factors for the rising alcohol-related deaths in the United States. Among these are the possible connection to baby boomers who used more alcohol than the current younger generations. As they are ageing, the older generation may be developing more alcohol-related diseases. Another reasoning is the rise in opioid deaths in many of which alcohol has also played a part. However, neither reason exactly points out to why the alcohol-related death rate has increased specifically among women.

One reason is that women are consuming more alcohol currently than ever before says Dr. Aaron White, a senior scientific adviser to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Even with teenagers who show a decreasing trend in alcohol use the gap between boys’ alcohol use and girls’ alcohol use has been narrowing.

Some women have gotten the message that it’s liberating to [consume alcohol] like a man,” said Dr. White, Senior Scientific Adviser to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, as per, The New York Times.

The increase in women’s consumption of alcohol is a part of the targeted effort by Big Alcohol to increase their consumers and profits.

This has been confirmed through research. For example, one study in Australia specifically found alcohol industry strategies targeting women. Another study showed that alcohol advertising increases alcohol consumption and also found specific targeting of women.

Big Alcohol aggressively targets women not just through advertising but also normalizing alcohol use among women, using alcohol as a gender equalizer and by seizing the feminist movement.

Time’s Up For Big Alcohol Exploiting Feminism

The unfortunate truth of women consuming more alcohol is that women face proportionately greater harm and some specific diseases such as breast cancer by using alcohol, according to Dr. White’s research. But the alcohol industry is working hard to hide these facts.

Government’s failure to take action on alcohol-related deaths

Despite the rise in alcohol-related deaths among men and women in the United States, the government has not been taking action to reduce the alcohol burden in the country. In fact, certain policy decisions work to increase the alcohol harm, such as the tax breaks for alcohol companies.

Increasing taxes on alcohol is identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of three most effective policy solutions to reduce alcohol consumption and harm.

… a 10% price increase would cut the death rate [from alcohol-caused diseases by] 9 to 25%. For the US in 2010, this represents 2,000 to 6,000 averted deaths/year,” said Dr. David Roodman, a senior adviser and researcher for the Open Philanthropy Project, as per Vox.

Despite this, the U.S. Congress is extending the tax break for beer, wine and distilled spirits, which was initially approved in 2017.

The tax revenue loss is calculated at a total of $1.2 billion.

USA: Congress Extends Big Alcohol’s Tax Break

Raghuram Rajan, an economist at the University of Chicago, argues in his latest book “The Third Pillar” that economists and policymakers, have focused excessively on the respective roles of the market and the state, while ignoring policies’ effects on cities and neighbourhoods. This has lead to cyclic weakening of communities and a decline in socio-economic standards, leading to vulnerability for death and disease. This vicious cycle is evident in alcohol policy in the United States, according to The Economist reporting.

It is the prime duty of a government of a country to protect their citizens. It is evident that alcohol-harm is growing in the United States leading to more deaths. Therefore, the government of the United States needs to act now and utilize effective policy solutions such as recommended by the WHO alcohol policy best buys and the SAFER package to safeguard American citizens. 

Sources:

Alcohol Deaths Have Risen Sharply, Particularly Among Women
by Matt Richtel, in The New York Times, January 10, 2020

The number of US alcohol deaths per year has doubled since 1999
by German Lopez, in Vox, January 13, 2020

Economists grapple with rising American mortality
In The Economist, January 9, 2020