A new study released by JAMA Network has found the rate of alcohol-related deaths in the US is rising faster among women, despite alcohol consumption still killing more men in the country.
The study, which analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed that alcohol-related deaths among women rose by 14.7% over the past two decades, compared to 12.5% in men.
Currently, 10% of the US population is said to suffer from an alcohol-use disorder. What’s more, it is believed that more than 140,000 Americans die every year because of alcohol-related health conditions and over consumption.
Experts are now warning that changing attitudes towards women drinking alcohol, including greater numbers of women binge drinking, could be the reason for this rise.
In contrast, a recent study from Gallup found that more than half of young adults in the US view moderate drinking (one or two drinks a day) as unhealthy. The research revealed that those aged between 18-34 were more likely to view moderate drinking as detrimental to their health, with many saying that alcohol was more harmful than marijuana.
What happens in your body when you drink alcohol?
When a person consumes ethanol – the intoxicating agent in alcoholic drinks – it is absorbed into the bloodstream, and more than 90% of it is broken down by the liver.
How alcohol affects the body can depend on a variety of factors, including age, gender, weight, and the type of alcohol the person has been drinking i.e., beers, wines, or hard liquor.
As the alcohol travels to different parts of the body, including the brain, it begins to affect basic functions, such as movement, breathing and temperature control.
People who continue to drink for several hours may also experience psychological effects including mood swings, reduced inhibitions, increased aggression, and paranoia.
A reduction in inhibitions can also lead to increased risk-taking when a person is under the influence of alcohol.
What are the guidelines on alcohol consumption?
The long-term impact of alcohol misuse is well documented, with physical and mental health issues such as depression, high blood pressure, liver disease, injuries and cardiovascular disease all linked to heavy alcohol use.
According to Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, published by the US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services, adults of legal drinking age who choose to drink alcohol should drink in moderation.
Men of legal drinking age should limit their intake to two drinks or less per day, while women of legal drinking age are advised to limit their intake to one drink or less per day, on days when alcohol is consumed.
The Dietary Guidelines report also outlines alcoholic drink equivalents to help Americans monitor their intake. For example, one alcoholic drink is defined as containing 14 grams (0.6 fluid ounces) of pure alcohol. The following beverages would count as one alcoholic drink:
- 12 fl oz of regular beer (5% alcohol)
- 5 fl oz of wine (12% alcohol)
- 5 fl oz of 80 proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol)
Top tips to reduce your alcohol intake
It can be difficult for many to manage their alcohol consumption. However, there are a few steps you can take. As well as keeping track of the number of drinks you have had in one sitting, and being mindful of how many drinks you are consuming during the week, it can also be helpful to:
- Choose smaller drinks – perhaps swapping a large glass of wine for a small glass
- Avoid drinking every day – aim for a set number of alcohol-free days each week and stick to them
- Avoid having alcohol at home – having alcohol within easy reach can make limiting your consumption more difficult. Try alcohol-free options instead, like mocktails, to quench your thirst
- Team up with a friend – it can be helpful to have support when you are trying to reduce how much you drink. Consider teaming up with a friend to reduce your alcohol intake. This can help ensure you stick to your goals
For individuals struggling with more severe alcohol addiction, reducing alcohol intake, or quitting drinking altogether can be extremely challenging, meaning that professional support is required.
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