Women and older adults in the United States are drinking a concerning amount of alcohol, leading researchers to label the problem a “public health crisis.”

In a new report, published in JAMA Psychiatry, researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism looked at two large studies with data on self-reported drinking habits. The studies, carried out in 2001-02 and 2012-13 involved about 43,000 and 36,000 participants, respectively.  

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The findings revealed that high-risk drinking and alcoholism both rose significantly over the course of the study period. For women, high-risk drinking was defined as consuming four or more alcoholic beverages per day at least once a week, every week, for a year. For men, it was defined as five drinks during the same timeframe.

Although both men and women reported drinking more, the increases were the greatest among women. High-risk drinking increased 15 percent among men and nearly 60 percent for women. Whereas, alcohol use disorder increased about 35 percent for men and almost 84 percent for women.

The researchers can’t pinpoint a reason for why women are drinking so much, but they hypothesize one reason may be due to the shift in cultural drinking habits.

“Drinking norms and values have become more permissive among women, along with increases in educational and occupational opportunities and rising numbers of women in the workforce,” may be to blame, the authors write in their paper.

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In addition to women, older adults also reported drinking a concerning amount. Americans 65 years and older had a 65 percent increase in high-risk drinking and nearly a 107 percent increase in alcohol use disorders.

“The findings herein highlight the urgency of educating the public, policymakers, and health care professionals about high-risk drinking and [alcohol use disorder], destigmatizing these conditions and encouraging those who cannot reduce their alcohol consumption on their own, despite substantial harm to themselves and others, to seek treatment,” the authors conclude in their paper.

Heavy drinking and alcohol use disorders can increase the risk of other health complications such as high blood pressure, various types of cancer, and stroke, among other problems.

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