A new study by the JAMA Network examined sex differences in alcohol-related deaths in the US from 1999 to 2020. The study analyzed data from the CDC on over 600,000 deaths attributed to alcohol, including alcohol-related poisoning, liver disease, gastritis, and cardiomyopathy, among others. Alcohol-related deaths have steadily risen across all demographics in the past 15 years, but deaths for women are growing at a faster rate (14.7% per year) than for men (12.5% per year), especially in women over 65.
The study does not address the reason for the rise in alcohol-related deaths in women, but research by the National Institutes for Health (NIH 2023) shows an increase in alcohol use and misuse among women. Women who drink also have a higher risk of alcohol-related health problems than men.
Alcohol-Related Deaths on the Rise for Women
Women have unique issues with substance use that make them more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. Alcohol uniquely impacts a woman’s hormones, menstrual cycle, fertility, pregnancy, and menopause. And women suffer the health consequences of alcohol more quickly than men (even with lower consumption levels). Although men tend to drink more than women, biological differences in body structure and chemistry cause most women to absorb more alcohol than men and metabolize it more slowly, hence, women are more susceptible to the adverse effects of alcohol than men.
Unique Health Risks for Women
- Women develop substance use disorders in less time than men – it’s called telescoping.
- They tend to weigh less and eat less than men – higher blood alcohol concentration.
- Women blackout more than men.
- Pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies, so there is a higher alcohol content in their bloodstream than men, even if they drink the same amount.
- There is a higher incidence of crimes against women when intoxicated (and with an intoxicated man).
- Women are more susceptible to heart disease, liver damage, and breast cancer.
- They have a higher risk of infectious diseases.
- And women have unique issues associated with reproduction and pregnancy.
Sanford Behavioral Health Gender-Responsive Programs
If you or a loved one is rethinking their alcohol drinking, there are options for getting help and information. At Sanford Behavioral Health, our priority is individualization. We understand that each person who comes through our doors has needs, obstacles, priorities, and strengths that are unique to them. Our gender-responsive addiction treatment programs, from residential to telehealth, feature collaboration between our therapists and clients to establish a plan for treatment and beyond. Every recovery journey is unique. We have a deep level of respect for the diversity in perspectives, experiences, and ideals about sobriety and health. We want our female-gendered clients to be able to focus on issues that are akin to their recovery needs and journey.
“Having gender-responsive treatment allows us to craft evidence-based programming tailored to the emotional, relational, and psychological needs of women. This increases engagement in treatment, and allows us to quickly uncover the underlying causes of substance misuse and disorder.” Sanford Behavioral Health Founder, Rae Green, JD. LPC, CAADC
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