INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A recent study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reveals a dramatic increase in the number of women dying from alcohol-related causes in the last 20 years.
Looking at U.S. death certificate data, researchers found that 73,000 people died in the U.S. because of liver disease and other alcohol-related illnesses in 2017.
That number is up from 36,000 in 1999.
While the study found men died at a higher rate than women, the greatest increases were found among females and people who were middle-aged and older.
Researchers also found women are dying from drinking at an earlier age.
20 years ago the highest rate of death was 65-to-74 years old.
Dr. Louis M. Profeta, an Emergency medicine physician with Ascension St. Vincent, says our ability to metabolize alcohol changes as we age, combined with long term effects like liver disease and medications older people need.
But according to the study, in 2017 the highest rate of death age dropped by 10 years to 55 to 64.
Researches say this shows younger and middle aged women are binge drinking more.
“I do have a number of friends who drink a surprising amount, I think because as their kids get older, they are more free to do so,” said Indianapolis mom Lisa Portolese.
For 21-year-old Ashley Herndobler, she says going to the bars gets old after a while. But, she also says she can see herself drinking more wine at home as she gets older.
“I’d like to say I would start to drink less, but I may need a glass of wine once I start working and maybe my life gets more stressful,” said Herndobler.
Still overall, the study points to an increase in Americans drinking by about 8% in the last 20 years.
Dr. Profeta says he thinks the uptick is because drinking in general has become more acceptable, but warns everyone to be aware of how much is too much.
“Maybe a drink a day is too much when you talk about five to seven drinks a week, you’re starting to creep up there but guess what you just described half of the adult population in America today. So, what seems like not a lot of alcohol might be a fair amount,” said Dr. Profeta.
The study also suggests the number of Emergency Room visits from drinking is up, and according to Dr. Profeta, that’s a good thing.
“We want you there. Especially when people start mixing with other drugs like fentanyl or Xanax, we need them there to clear their airway and help them sober up in a safe place,” added Dr. Profeta.
Researches say the study is important in determining the burden drinking has on public health, including the long term effects on women.