USA: Alcohol Deaths Soar Especially Among Women
Alcohol deaths soar in the United States, with deaths especially increasing among women.
A study published on JAMA Network reports that an increasing number of Americans are dying because of alcohol. The death rate is especially high among women.
According to the study:
- Between 2000 to 2016, alcohol-induced deaths among women increased between 3.1% and 3.6% a year, while for men the increase was 1.4% to 1.8% per year.
- The rates are accelerating in recent years – between 2012 and 2016, the average annual increase for women was 7.1% and for men it was 4.2%.
- The largest average increases in alcohol-induced deaths were observed among American Indian and Alaska Native men (3.3%) and women (4.2%), as well as white women (4.2%).
In the study, Spillane and colleagues examined death certificate data maintained by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as population statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The researchers say that this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to alcohol-related deaths. The deaths documented in the study were solely due to illness caused by alcohol use, mainly alcoholic liver disease. The study has excluded causes known to be alcohol-related but not 100% alcohol-attributable, such as road traffic accidents, alcohol-associated cancers, and infections and organ system diseases known to be associated with alcohol use.
- Alcoholic liver disease accounted for 60% of alcohol-induced deaths in males and 69% in females.
- Deaths due to alcohol poisoning or alcohol-related mental and behavioral disorders accounted for 36% of deaths in males and 28% in females.
Notably, these increased rates occurred throughout the U.S., including among urban, rural, wealthier and poorer counties,” said Susan Spillane, Lead Researcher of the study, as per UPI.
Our findings document an urgent public health crisis calling for concerted public health action,” added Dr. Spillane.
Reasons for increasing alcohol death in United States
There are several reasons the researchers discuss that could lead to more alcohol deaths among women:
- Increased stress, anxiety and wealth inequality as the gender gap closes;
- Differences in physiology: Women weigh less than men and carry less water in the body than men. Alcohol resides in the body’s water. Meaning women will reach higher blood alcohol levels than men of comparable weight even if the same amount of alcohol is consumed;
- Women (and older adults) are more likely to be prescribed medication which contradict with alcohol consumption, such as benzodiazepines and painkillers.
Several possible reasons for the overall increase in alcohol deaths are:
- Increased availability of alcohol such as through grocery stores;
- Alcohol marketing through new products such as alcohol-based teas, lemonade, seltzers.
Recommended action to reduce alcohol deaths
Pat Aussem, director of clinical content and development for the Center on Addiction, says there are several actions which can be taken to reduce alcohol deaths.
- Doctors can regularly screen patients for alcohol use, addiction, mental health disorders or family violence.
- The public should be educated on CDC guidelines that limit daily alcohol consumption to one unit of alcohol for women and two units of alcohol for men.
- The availability of affordable treatment for alcoholism should be supported.
- State and local laws can tax alcohol, limit the number of liquor stores in a community, or hold businesses more accountable for selling alcohol to minors or people who are already intoxicated.
- The stigma related to alcoholism should be addressed, so people can seek care without being labeled or shamed.
Alcohol policy best buys – alcohol taxation, availability limitations and marketing regulations – recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) are evidence-based proven effective measures which can reduce alcohol consumption and alcohol harm. The WHO last year also launched a new technical guide which helps to implement the best buys and other effective measures to reduce alcohol harm.