Alcohol-Related Deaths Among Women Are Dramatically Increasing

The National Institutes of Health found that alcohol-related deaths among women rose 85 percent since 1999.

alcohol abuse on the rise for women
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A new study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has revealed a dramatic increase in the number of alcohol-related deaths among Americans between 1999 and 2017, and the rise was particularly sharp for women. The study, which was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, found that, while the rates of deaths involving alcohol consumption increased by 35 percent for men from 1999 to 2017, they increased by a shocking 85 percent for women.

"Alcohol is a growing women's health issue," George F. Koob, PhD, the director of the NIAAA, said in a statement. "The rapid increase in deaths involving alcohol among women is troubling and parallels the increases in alcohol consumption among women over the past few decades." Similarly, a 2017 study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that alcohol abuse and dependence among women increased by 83.7 percent between 2002 and 2013.

Why alcoholism has been on the rise for women in recent years is a matter of speculation. With more and more women joining the workforce, some have argued that mounting financial independence and pressures have contributed to closing the gender gap on alcoholism, which was once considered a mostly male problem.

In recent months, some have also pointed fingers at "mommy wine culture," which encourages mothers to view wine as a liberating way to destress. "You'd see cards in shops saying that wine is 'mommy's juice,'" Sophie, a U.K. mom who is in recovery, recently told Best Life. "Then you'd watch shows like The Good Wife where the main character, who's a top lawyer with a family, always has a glass of wine in her hand. So it just made it seem like moms need wine to get through the day."

But the NIAAA study also found that across the board, the number of death certificates mentioning alcohol more than doubled between 1999 and 2017, from 35,914 to 72,558. The highest rates of death were among people between the ages of 45 and 75, although the biggest increases over time were in the 25-34 age range, AKA millennials. Clearly, it's a problem that's only getting worse.

Now, the rise of the sober curious and alcohol-free movements are attempting to combat this rise in alcoholism by reminding people that alcohol is a drug that can come with severe consequences. There's also been an effort to end the stigma surrounding alcoholism in order to encourage people to seek help if they need it.

Sophie, who's been sober for nine months now, said when she stopped drinking, she lost weight, her skin cleared up, and her migraines went away, "but, most importantly, my mental health improved," she said. "I don't have negative thoughts like I used to. I feel lighter and more patient and like a much better person overall. … I believe that if alcohol is affecting you negatively in any way, it's worth taking a hard look at your drinking."

Diana Bruk
Diana is a senior editor who writes about sex and relationships, modern dating trends, and health and wellness. Read more
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