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More Women Drinking Alcohol


New studies finds that American women are dying of alcohol-related causes at a growing rate.
More Women Drinking Alcohol
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From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

Women in the United States are dying of alcohol-related causes at a growing rate, the U.S. government says.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report on that issue in October. It found that in the United States more men than women die each year from alcohol-related causes. However, the rate of increase in deaths was higher for women.

The study also found that more women are using alcohol to deal with restrictions meant to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

In many cases, women take care of the home and childcare. And now childcare often includes supervising online learning. These tasks are added to women’s work responsibilities inside or outside the home. This can lead to an increase in stress levels.

“Having children in the home was associated with more drinking,” Lindsey Rodriguez recently told NBC News. Rodriguez is one of the writers of a study about the pandemic and alcohol use. The study was recently published in Addictive Behaviors.

Rodriguez said that, for women, “the most problematic alcohol use happened around March and April" of this year when the lockdown went into effect.

There was another study published recently in JAMA Network Open. It said that Americans increased their alcohol use by 14 percent from 2019 to 2020. Women in the U.S., however, increased their heavy drinking by 41 percent. Heavy drinking is having more than four drinks at one time.

The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism researches alcohol and health. It defines moderate drinking as up to one drink a day for a woman and up to two drinks a day for a man. One drink is defined as about 14 milliliters of pure alcohol.

Alcohol is the “easiest coping strategy,” said Natalie Crawford. She is an assistant professor of behavioral, social and health education at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health.

Crawford told NBC News recently that “over a short time period, the system does a really good job of adapting to stress, but this is chronic,” she noted. Chronic describes something that happens over a long period of time.

How and why alcohol affects women differently

Studies find that alcohol affects women differently than men. Research shows that women start to have alcohol-related problems sooner and at lower drinking levels than men.

On its website, the U.S. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) explains that women, on average, weigh less than men. This can affect how the body processes alcohol. Alcohol can also damage the brain. And it can affect a woman’s brain differently than it affects a man’s brain. The government agency’s website also states that “alcohol misuse produces brain damage more quickly in women than in men.”

In addition, research shows that alcohol can hurt normal brain development during the years before adulthood. And “there may be differences in the impact of alcohol on the brains of teenage girls and boys who drink.”

Some studies have suggested that some alcohol drinking can be healthy. However, experts at the American Heart Association say no research has proved a cause-and-effect link between drinking alcohol and better heart health. They add that drinking too much alcohol increases the risk for many health problems. These can include high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, depression, suicide and alcoholism.

Breast cancer risk higher

Studies show that alcohol also has been found to increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer, say experts at the U.S. National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Its website says that women who drink about one drink a day have a five to nine percent greater chance of developing breast cancer than women who do not drink at all. That risk increases for every additional drink they have each day.

However, many people do not know this. A 2017 survey by the American Society of Clinical Oncology showed that about 70 percent of Americans did not know that drinking alcohol increases cancer risk.

Drinking around the world

Problems with alcohol are not limited to the United States. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports on alcohol use around the world.

The WHO’s most recent report on alcohol and health from 2018 estimated that 237 million men and 46 million women around the world have alcohol use disorders. The WHO said North and South America and Europe have the highest number of women who have problems with alcohol.

Alcohol use disorders are more common in high-income countries. The WHO report said that as societies become wealthier, there is a “strong tendency” for the level of alcohol use to increase.

The report uses Vietnam as an example. Vietnam has a fast-growing economy. In the past 10 years, there also has been a 50 percent increase in alcohol production. Between 2002 and 2016, the percentage of female drinkers increased from two percent to 11 percent.

And that’s the Health & Lifestyle report. I’m Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo adapted this story from VOA News, adding additional information from several websites including the U.S. National Institute on Health (NIAAA), the American Heart Association, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Words in This Story

rate –n. the speed at which something happens over a particular period of time​

stress –n. a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in a person’s life

associated – adj. ​related, connected, or combined together

pandemic – n. the fast spread of an infectious disease over a wide area or large part of the world

coping strategy – n. a long-term method or plan for dealing with problems

adapt – v. to change one’s behavior so that it is easier to live in a place or situation

lockdown – n. a temporary state of restricted movement or activity

impact – n. a powerful or major influence or effect

survey – n. a study in which people are asked questions to gather information and to find out their opinions on issues

tendency – n. a way of behaving that is developing and becoming more common

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