Alcohol mortality rates increasing for women, closing the gap with men

Alcohol mortality rates increasing for women, closing the gap with men

Women Catching Up to Men in Alcohol-Related Deaths


Women are catching up to men in terms of alcohol-related deaths, according to a new study. While men are still nearly three times more likely to die from alcohol abuse than women, the rate of alcohol-related deaths among women is increasing at a faster pace. This alarming trend is causing concern among experts.

Lead researcher Dr. Ibraheem Karaye, an assistant professor of population health at Hofstra University, expressed his unease over the rising alcohol-related deaths among women. The study analyzed data from almost 606,000 alcohol-related deaths between 1999 and 2020. The researchers discovered that alcohol-related deaths increased by 12.5% among men between 2018 and 2020, while the increase among women was nearly 15%.

Dr. Karaye acknowledges that the study cannot definitively explain the reasons behind this trend. However, he speculates that the obesity epidemic among women may be a contributing factor. Obesity is associated with a higher risk of alcohol concentration, leading to increased toxicity, complications, and ultimately, death. Additionally, the simultaneous use of opioids compounds the risk of alcohol-related deaths. There is evidence that alcohol and opioid co-involved mortality is a significant concern.

The study also highlights the regional disparities when it comes to alcohol-related deaths among women. In the South and West, the rates are higher compared to the Northeast and Midwest. This regional variation emphasizes the need for localized interventions and strategies to address alcohol abuse in different parts of the country.

The narrowing of the gap between men and women in terms of alcohol-related deaths is observed among white, Hispanic, and Black women. Alcohol use and alcohol-related deaths are on the rise within these populations. It is crucial to understand and address the underlying factors contributing to this increase to effectively combat this growing public health concern.

Linda Richter, senior vice president for prevention research and analysis at the Partnership to End Addiction, underscores the significance of acknowledging the risks associated with excessive alcohol use. She highlights that alcohol-related deaths far outnumber deaths caused by all drugs, including opioids like fentanyl. The normalization of alcohol use in society has overshadowed its dangers and consequences.

Risky alcohol use and mortality rates have been on the rise in recent years, with greater increases observed among females than males. This narrowing gender gap in terms of risky alcohol use and mortality is a cause for concern. It suggests the need for increased public awareness, as well as effective and early interventions to address this issue.

Multiple factors contribute to the increase in risky alcohol use among females. Alongside the growing acceptance of alcohol use, binge drinking, and excessive consumption, risk factors such as stress, anxiety, and depression have become more prevalent among women. Furthermore, due to physiological differences, alcohol-related harms are experienced more quickly and intensely by females compared to males.

The narrowing gender gap in risky alcohol use is most noticeable among younger people, although this pattern is not evident in the mortality data. To reverse the increasing mortality rates in the long term, prevention efforts need to start early and continue throughout individuals’ lives. Age-appropriate and research-informed prevention strategies are crucial for reducing alcohol-related deaths.

In conclusion, the study’s findings highlight the concerning trend of increasing alcohol-related deaths among women. While men still have higher rates of such deaths, women are catching up at an alarming rate. Understanding the underlying factors contributing to this increase, such as the obesity epidemic and simultaneous opioid use, is essential for effective prevention and intervention strategies. Moreover, addressing the normalization of alcohol use in society and raising awareness about the risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption are crucial to combat this growing public health concern.


  • Ibraheem Karaye, MD, DrPH, assistant professor, population health, Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.
  • Linda Richter, PhD, senior vice president, prevention research and analysis, Partnership to End Addiction
  • JAMA Network Open, July 28, 2023, online

For more information on alcohol and its effects on health, please visit the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.