According to a recent JAMA Network study, the number of Americans drinking alcohol is steadily increasing, as well as the number of Americans who fall into the alcohol use disorder (AUD) and high risk drinking categories. Older adults, minorities and women represent those with the greatest escalation of alcohol consumption.
Remarkably, high-risk alcohol consumption among women rose by 60 percent, with AUD rising nearly 85 percent among women as well. Authors of the JAMA article also note that adults over 65 years old are drinking more than ever. AUD soared to an alarming 107 percent in seniors and high-risk drinking increasing by 65 percent in this particular demographic.
In fact, drinking rates rose dramatically among all adults, ethnicities and socioeconomic classes. Statistics delineating these rates include:
- Alcohol use by adults increased by 11 percent, increasing from 655 percent to 73 percent
- Percentage of high risk drinkers in America rose from 10 percent to 13 percent–an increase of nearly 30 percent. Again, women, older people and minorities saw the greatest rise in high risk drinking as compared to white, younger males.
- Americans diagnosed with AUD increased from nine percent to 13 percent, a 50 percent spike.
Why the Increase in Women Drinkers in the U.S.?
Researchers theorize the increasing rate of women drinkers may be attributed, in part, to trying to balance a career with being a wife, mother and sometimes head of household. Authors of the JAMA Network study also found there were “substantial increases in alcohol use among women living in urban areas and married women”.
Depression, anxiety and stress correlate with high-risk drinking and AUD in women. Many women choose to self-medicate instead of seeking professional counseling because they are worried about the stigma associated with mental illness. Some use alcohol because it is cheap and easily accessible. Women relying on alcohol to escape stress almost always find themselves eventually addicted to alcohol and suffering inevitable withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provide the following statistics on women drinkers:
- Nearly 46 percent of women over 18 years old report consuming alcohol in the past 30 days
- About 12 percent of women say they binge drink (have five or six drinks) at least three times each month
- Approximately 2.5 percent of women meet the diagnostic criteria established by the DSM-V for alcohol abuse disorder/addiction
- One out of 10 pregnant women will drink alcohol
- Women who drink regularly have a higher risk for suffering liver disease (cirrhosis) than men who drink regularly
What is Alcohol Use Disorder?
A person may be diagnosed with AUD if they:
- Usually drink more than they intend to drink
- Tried to stop drinking but couldn’t
- Feel sick or hung over every day
- Crave a drink when they haven’t had one for awhile
- Continue drinking even when drinking causes trouble in their relationships and ability to hold a job
- Have been arrested for DUI or involved in other dangerous, alcohol-related incidents
- Been told they have chronic health issues due to drinking but continue drinking against doctor’s orders
Physicians and psychologists are qualified to diagnose alcohol abuse disorder and high-risk drinking patterns. They can also provide resources where women with drinking problems can receive professional treatment for AUD.