Women and seniors at higher risk of alcoholism: U.S. study

Click to play video: 'Higher risk of alcoholism in women and elderly: study'
Higher risk of alcoholism in women and elderly: study
WATCH: A recent study suggests that in over a decade, alcoholism has increased in women, the elderly and minorities – Aug 14, 2017

A recent study in the U.S. has revealed that alcoholism is on the rise, especially among women, older people and minorities.

The study, published in JAMA, found that there was a 29.9 per cent increase in high-risk drinking and a 49.4 per cent increase in DSM-IV alcohol use disorder across all groups in the last decade.

Most notably, over a 12-month period, the increases in high-risk drinking were concerning among women (57.9 per cent), minorities (from 40.6 per cent), and seniors (65.2 per cent).

Data was collected from nearly 80,000 respondents aged 18 and older, between 2001 to 2002 and 2012 to 2013.

READ MORE: Poor body image in teen girls leads to more alcohol consumption: study

“What’s concerning is that the increases we’ve seen over the last decade have been associated with increases in a lot of other chronic diseases that are associated with alcohol abuse,” lead study author Bridget Grant, senior epidemiologist at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, told Global News.

Story continues below advertisement

“We’re seeing an increase in liver cirrhosis, which we haven’t seen since the 1970s. Also cardiovascular disease, which has been declining since the 1960s, has again been on the rise in the last five years, and alcohol use is a major risk factor for that.”

In addition, high-risk drinking and alcohol use disorder are linked to hypertension, stroke, pancreatitis, Type 2 diabetes and infection, as well as several types of cancer and injury.

The latest health and medical news emailed to you every Sunday.

High-risk drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks for women (the equivalent of four shots of alcohol, four five-ounce glasses of wine or four beers) and five or more for men on any day, and exceeding these limits weekly over a 12-month period.

“What usually happens is people will consume these large amounts of alcohol in one sitting, or one occasion usually lasting two to three hours, and the quicker you drink, the higher the effects on the body,” Dr. Jürgen Rehm, senior director of the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research in Toronto, tells Global News.

READ MORE: Is wine healthy? U.S. government, alcohol industry pour $100M into study to find out

In Canada, the numbers are considerably lower, although Rehm points out that there isn’t the same amount of longitudinal data to show a change in alcoholism rates.

Statistics Canada found there was a 3.2 per cent increase in alcohol use and dependence in 2012 over a 12-month period, while the 2015 Alcohol Consumption in Canada report showed that nearly 80 per cent of the population reported drinking alcohol in 2013, and of them 4.4 million were at risk for chronic health effects due to drinking.

Story continues below advertisement

Although the JAMA study authors did not have concrete reasons to explain the increase in drinking among women, older people and minorities, they drew some hypothetical conclusions.

“The number of women in the workforce is increasing every year, and women are trying to balance work and home life, which may cause more stress. That, in turn, can lead to drinking as a coping mechanism,” Grant says.

She also points out that the norms around drinking have been gradually changing — it is simply more socially acceptable for women to drink.

“The increase in alcohol use is greater in women than in men, which indicates that the gender gap in drinking is starting to close.”

She says while it’s unclear why older people (65 and older) are drinking more, researchers know that its effects are in fact graver on this age group.

READ MORE: Should women drink alcohol when they’re breastfeeding? 

“We have found an increase in falls, injuries and unintended injury death rates in this age group,” she says. “We know alcohol impairs people, and this will lead to more injuries among the elderly in particular.”

It’s also especially dangerous because this group tends to take more medications for chronic diseases, which opens up the potential for adverse alcohol interaction with prescription medication.

Story continues below advertisement

In both the cases of elderly drinkers and minorities, Grant points to the 2008 recession in the U.S. as a potential factor for boosting alcohol consumption, as both groups were severely affected by the downturn.

“Both before and especially after the 2008 economic depression, the income gap was increasing between whites and minorities. Once again, this can cause stress and lead to drinking as a coping mechanism.”

Curator Recommendations

Sponsored content