Middle-aged white women across the United States are struggling with heavy drinking and associated alcohol-related disease at higher rates, according to data analyzed by the Washington Post, and Nevada has not been exempt from this trend. This increased rate of alcohol ingestion and resulting disease has created a hike in rates of deaths caused by alcohol use in this group between 1999 and 2015.
Despite the increased rate of lives lost to alcohol among middle-aged white women specifically, alcohol use disorders and related health problems remain an ongoing to threat to women of all ages and racial backgrounds. Rates of death due to alcohol among Asian and Hispanic women have been steadily climbing as well; only African American middle-aged women have seen a slight decline in alcohol-related deaths between 1999 and 2015.
In Nevada, the numbers are not as simple. Deaths among women caused by alcohol increased from 2011 to 2012 but then dropped in 2013 and 2014. The early numbers indicate that rates of alcohol-related deaths among women across the state rose again in 2015, according to data from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public and Behavioral Health.
Why are women drinking more? And what can we do to increase awareness of the dangers associated with heavy drinking?
Response to Chaotic Times?
A scan of American history from 1999 to present shows highly tumultuous times. The terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, ongoing wars in the Middle East, the bottom falling out of the housing market and the following depression – all of this has taken a toll on Americans. But war, financial stress, and political upset are nothing new; the last century has been pocked with intense ups and downs. So why is that women are drinking more now than they ever have?
Part of it likely has to do with stigma and changing perspectives on gender roles. In former eras, it was not considered appropriate for women to drink more than a socially acceptable glass of wine at dinner. Actively going out to bars and drinking heavily was looked down upon and caused women to be judged harshly. This caused many of the women who did drink more heavily to do so in secret, and many others to curb their drinking in response. With a lifting of this stigma and an increasing number of women becoming the primary breadwinners in their families as well as an influx of apps making it easy to avoid scrutiny by simply having alcohol delivered to the house in bulk, many have incorporated more and more alcohol into their daily lives, often with disastrous results.
The Middle Class Is Not Immune
No Safe Level of Alcohol
Another myth that has pervaded middleclass America and perhaps contributed to the development of higher rates of alcohol-related death among some groups of women is the idea that a moderate amount of alcohol may not only be harmless but even good for your health. There have been studies that suggest a half-glass of red wine may contain a chemical that is good for your heart, thus making it a good dietary choice; however, the harm done by alcohol far outweighs these potential benefits. Even researchers who supported these studies made sure to caveat the findings by pointing out that if you don’t already drink, starting is not a good idea.
The fact is that there is no safe level of alcohol use. Alcohol must be converted into a deadly toxin called acetaldehyde in order to be processed out of the body; the amount created by processing one unit of alcohol would be enough to cause any food or beverage to be banned. Additionally, use of alcohol has been proven to increase the risk of a number of diseases that are fatal, from heart disease to certain types of cancer. Then, of course, there is the risk of accident, behind the wheel or otherwise, and the risk of addiction that come with use of the substance. For women, specifically, the fact that damage is done at much lower amounts of alcohol as compared to men and that addiction can happen even more quickly with the same level of use, it is clear that there is no “up” side to drinking.