Alcohol is a growing women's health issue
Over the past decade, drinking habits have changed dramatically – and mostly for women. "Alcohol is a growing women's health issue," said Dr. Koob. "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."
A new study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that women have been dying more frequently over the last two decades because of alcohol-related issues.
"More Women Are Drinking"
The study came from a significant analysis looking at deaths nationwide from 1999 to 2017 reported as being contributed to by alcohol – including overdose, chronic alcohol use, or in combination with other substances.
Considering population growth, findings also determined the death rate tied to alcohol increased 50.9% from 16.9 to 25.5 deaths per 100,000. More notably among researchers was the determination that women's death rate rose exponentially, up 85%.
"More women are drinking, and they are drinking more," said Patricia Powell, deputy director of the alcohol institute, which is a division of the National Institutes of Health.
According to new research, 18,072 women died from alcohol in 2017, according to death certificates, compared with 7,662 in 1999.
While scientists say there's no direct correlation to why female deaths from alcohol have risen, Aaron White, scientific adviser to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, noted that drinking harms women more than men, contributing to cancer and heart disease.
The study also found that the deaths were more prevalent among white, middle-aged women.
"With the increases in alcohol use among women, there have been increases in harms for women including ER visits, hospitalization, and deaths," White said.
"Everybody Knows About, But Nobody Wants to Talk About."
While women predominately lead the study's death rate, overall, it showed that nearly one million alcohol-related deaths were recorded from 1999 to 2017.
"Alcohol is a hidden addiction, one that everybody knows about, but nobody wants to talk about," Dr. George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, told ABC News.
There is no exact answer to pinpoint the shift with a large change in women's drinking. Though the gender gap has narrowed within society in the last decade, it may be a telltale conclusion of the higher drinking rates among women.
"Women are under an incredible amount of pressure with increased opportunities in the workforce," White stated. "But at the same time, it hasn't removed other sources of stress and responsibility that women tend to face in our society. It's a lot to cope with and certainly a driving part of the increase of alcohol consumption."
Changing the Conversation
Besides, women face the paradigm of pressures to flourish in the workforce but face the comparison of unrealistic expectations of physical proportions in pop-culture, advertising, and the media while being expected to have a well-rounded family bountiful career. Messages and slang terms sold to women such as "rose all day" and "Wine O'Clock" continue to allow women to believe drinking will make their lives happier and sexier. For years, women have used these advertisements to cope with their stressors and rationalize behavior to turn a blind eye because alcohol is killing more women than ever. Now, the truth is revealing itself.
While women continue to face society's pressures, alcohol will continue to be a temporary solution. With more conversation about gender roles, alcohol consumption, the recovery movement, and the sober-curious lifestyle emerging, we can hope to see discussions that shape ideas and change the statistics.