A new study published in JAMA Network Open reveals that women in the U.S. are dying from alcohol-related causes at a faster rate than men. The study, which tracked these deaths for 20 years, found that the most significant increase occurred in the last three years covered by the study.
According to the study's lead researcher, Dr. Ibraheem M. Karaye, alcohol-related deaths in women increased by 14.7% per year from 2018 to 2020, compared to 12.5% per year in men. This trend aligns with previous research indicating that women are drinking more, engaging in riskier drinking behaviors, and developing alcohol use disorder at higher rates.
The study analyzed data from the CDC spanning from 1999 to 2020, identifying over 605,000 alcohol-attributed deaths. While men were still nearly three times more likely to die from alcohol-related issues overall, the rate of alcohol-related deaths in women increased significantly, especially in the latest years studied.
The study also revealed three different segments of trends in women. From 1999 to 2007, alcohol-related mortality rates increased by 1% per year. From 2007 to 2018, the rate increased by 4.3% per year. Finally, from 2018 to 2020, the rate increased by 14.7% per year.
The study's findings remained consistent even when excluding data from 2020, the first year of the pandemic. However, the study does not provide specific reasons for the increase in alcohol-related deaths among women.
Dr. Karaye suggests that factors such as higher alcohol concentrations due to lower concentrations of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase in women and a higher concentration of fat to water in women's bodies may contribute to the trend.
The study emphasizes the need for additional research to understand the causes behind the rise in alcohol-related deaths among women. It also highlights the importance of including women in studies on medication for alcohol use disorder and addressing the unique risks of alcohol for women, such as the impact of hormones and the increasing prevalence of obesity and bariatric surgery.
Experts in the field stress the importance of limiting alcohol intake and seeking help if concerned. Health care providers are dedicated to helping patients recognize and treat alcohol-related disorders.