Alcohol-related deaths have been increasing in the US, and while men have a significantly higher burden of alcohol-related mortality than women, alcohol-related deaths are growing much faster in women. In a cross-sectional study published in JAMA in July 2023, Karaye and colleagues analysed 605,948 alcohol-attributed deaths via joinpoint regression using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Wide-Ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research (WONDER) database between 1999 and 2020 to identify temporal trends in age-adjusted mortality rates (AAMR). Their findings revealed that although men were 2.88 times more likely to die than women during this period, the AAMR in women increased 14.7% compared to a 12.5% increase in men. This trend is significant as it indicates that changing patterns in alcohol consumption in women over the last several decades are increasing their alcohol-related morbidity and mortality, even after adjusting to the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to GlobalData, in 2023, the number of 12-month total prevalent cases of alcohol use disorder (AUD) will total approximately 38.9 million individuals in the US, and such cases are anticipated to grow to more than 40.5 million individuals by 2028. Without intervention, the number of alcohol-related deaths is likely to continue to increase as a result of this trend, particularly among women. Moreover, because alcohol use has been linked to certain cancers (colorectal, breast, oesophagal, liver, stomach, and oral cancers), stroke, and high blood pressure, the number of alcohol-related deaths is likely undercounted. Women, in particular, may also respond differently to AUD pharmacologic treatments as their effectiveness in reducing alcohol-related mortality remains a crucial gap in current literature. As a result, if the changing patterns in alcohol consumption continue, there could be a growing disparity in alcohol-related mortality among women.
Given the large number of men and women with AUD in the US and the growing number of alcohol-related deaths, further research must be conducted to understand the specific factors associated with this trend, particularly into the closing gap in said mortality between men and women. With this added understanding, it may be possible to develop further public health interventions like enhanced screening and linkage to appropriate care to help individuals who are struggling with alcohol use. Doing so may not only help reduce the morbidity of alcohol use but could also have positive residual effects, as alcohol often impacts others around the person struggling with alcohol abuse.