Alcohol-related deaths among women are soaring: why's nothing being done?

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Words by Elizabeth Di Filippo.

A new report from the University of Washington reveals that alcohol kills more people each year than overdoses – and statistics are on the rise.

First reported by USA Today, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington declared alcohol use a leading global risk factor for death and disability, causing 2.8 million deaths in 2016 through related cancers, liver disease, pancreatitis, injury and suicide.

The IHME’s says that between 2007 and 2017 the number of alcohol-related deaths increased by 35 per cent, with a staggering 85 per cent increase in women’s deaths, despite data revealing women consumed less alcohol than men. In some cases, the study reports that moderate drinking played a factor in preventing heart disease and diabetes in women over the age of 60.

Alcohol-related deaths in men increased by 29 per cent, while teenage deaths from drinking decreased by 16 per cent. On a global scale, the study revealed that nearly 10 per cent of all deaths between the age of 15-49 are alcohol related, posing “dire ramifications” for future generations.

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According to USA Today, the statistics and dangers of alcohol have been “obscured” by public interest in the opioid epidemic.

“The story is that no one has noticed this,” said Max Griswold, one of the researches at IHME. “It hasn’t really been researched before.”

The findings on alcohol consumption was part of a larger project by the international Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD) examining death rates, causes of death, birth rates and fertility of 188 countries to help measure  their progress towards each country’s sustainable development goals.

The District of Columbia, Georgia and Alabama had the highest rates of alcohol related deaths in the United States, despite Alabama ranking third in a 2014 report of states with the strongest alcohol control policies.

Benjamin Miller, a psychologist and chef strategy officer at Well Being Trust, a nonprofit that helps Americans with mental health and substance abuse issues, many people still don’t view alcohol consumption as a serious threat.

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Each year in the U.S alone, 88,000 people die from alcohol related deaths compared to the 72,000 people who die from opioid overdoses. Both are undeniably a problem, but alcohol consumption gets far less attention.

“Culturally, we’ve made it acceptable to drink but not to go out and shoot up heroin,” Miller told USA Today. “A lot of people will read this and say, ‘What’s the problem?'”

The IHME makes their stance on alcohol consumption clear, stating that there is no safe level of alcohol, and is advocating for policy revision regarding alcohol sales and consumption.

“We need to act now,” said Lancet editor Richard Horton of the study. “We need to act urgently to prevent these millions of deaths. And we can.


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