Americans, Especially Women, Are Drinking Alcohol More Frequently Now

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The authors defined high-risk drinking as regular consumption of four drinks of alcohol a day for women or five for men.

"The results of this study call for a broader effort to address the individual, biological, environmental and societal factors that influence high-risk drinking and [alcohol use disorder] and their considerable consequences and economic costs to society ($250 billion) to improve the health, safety and well-being of the nation", the authors, Bridget F. Grant, S. Patricia Chou and Tulshi D. Saha, wrote in the study. Problem drinking increased by an even greater percentage, and women, racial minorities, older adults and the poor saw particularly large spikes.

Between 2002 and 2013, overall drinking increased by 11 percent.

Psychotherapist Alexis Michael joined Morning Dose on Thursday and said it's because women are catching up with men.

Among the ailments the researchers cite are: fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, liver cirrhosis, several types of cancer and infections, pancreatitis, type 2 diabetes, and various injuries.

As alcohol use increased, the differences between the two surveys became even starker.

The study, sponsored by a federal agency for alcohol research, examined how drinking patterns changed between 2002 and 2013, based on in-person surveys of tens of thousands of USA adults.

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Among the total population, the study determined that DSM-IV AUD increased from 8.5% to 12.7% between the two surveys - a significant increase of 49.4%. Adults over 65 years in age also saw a pretty big jump - a 65% increase, in fact.

Respondents with only a high school education reported a 57.8 percent increase in number of AUDs, and those who made less than $20,000 yearly reported a 65.9 percent increase in the disorders. The share of adults who promulgate any alcohol use, high risk drinking, or alcohol dependence or abuse have risen sharply.

And among older adults, abuse and dependence more than doubled.

Experts at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism say that the rise could constitute a public health crisis that is being overshadowed by the opioid epidemic and marijuana legalization.

These trends troubled researchers, who wrote "these findings portend increases in many chronic comorbidities in which alcohol use has a substantial role".

Overall, alcohol use disorders rose by nearly 50%, affecting a projected 8.5% of the population during the first research period, and 12.7% during the second.

These calls for new public health strategies are all the more important because though alcohol abuse is a widespread issue, treatment rates remain disproportionately low. Deborah Hasin, the study's lead author and a professor at Columbia University, noted that while light drinking has been helpful for people's health overall, heavy drinking can often lead to some harms and impairment.

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