Yesterday I posted the results of a study that found an increased risk of accidental and intentional death among women and young people with alcohol use disorders. Now there is a brand new study, published online by the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research (September 2015) that indicates that over the last decade, women have begun to drink much more similarly to men.
Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health were used to “assess the prevalence and trends for females and males aged 12 and over in lifetime abstinence, age of onset, current drinking, binge drinking, drinking and driving, reaching DSM-IV criteria for an alcohol use disorder, combining alcohol with other drugs such as marijuana, and other variables.”
The study found that, between the years between 2002 and 2012, more females became current drinkers, having at least 1 drink per month, while the numbers for males remained relatively stable. This led to convergence in the percentage of males and females in the United States who consume alcohol. The number of drinking days per month also increased for females but decreased for males, making this pattern more similar as well. Finally, there was an overall increase in the prevalence of binge drinking occurred for females but not for males. The increases in drinking and binge drinking were observed for women across a range of groups. Women who were married, never married, full-time employed, part-time employed, and not in the labor force all drank at higher rates. Moreover, increases were observed even after controlling for education level, pregnancy, and race/ethnicity. Once again, since women are more vulnerable to the toxic and intoxicating effects of alcohol, this is alarming news. In addition to the higher risks of accidental death and suicide that women face, a special cause of concern is the direct link that appears to exist between the amount of alcohol women drink and their likelihood of developing breast cancer. Compared to women who don’t drink at all, women who have three alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer. As I noted in a previous post, “Experts estimate that the risk of breast cancer goes up another 10% for each additional drink women regularly have each day. Breast cancer is the most common cause of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths in women, accounting for approximately 6,000 deaths annually, or about 15 percent of all breast cancer deaths.” And as I observed in yesterday’s post, it is very important that educators and medical and mental health providers work to raise women’s consciousness of these risks.