Women binge drinking, youth substance abuse deaths up

The Good News: There’s AA. It works if you work it!

By Mark H.

     A recent National Health Interview Survey found the proportion of respondents who reported binge drinking increased during a study period from 32 percent in 2006 to 39 percent in 2018. Although men — particularly those without children — engage in binge drinking more often than women, the upswing in this type was drinking was greater among women.
     The proportion of women who reported binge drinking rose from 21 percent to 33 percent. That compares with a rise of 42 percent to 45 percent among men. In fact, the largest increases in binge drinking occurred among women ages 30 to 44 without children, doubling from 21 percent back in 2006 to 42 percent in 2018.

     Heavy drinking did not trend up — except among older women (those aged 45 to 55) without children.

     Why does all this matter? Well each year about 88,000 Americans die as a result of excessive drinking. Binge drinking also places a huge economic burden on the U.S. economy — at least $191 billion a year in lost health care expenditures, criminal justice costs, lost productivity and other expenses.

Deaths of Despair?

     Another recent study found mortality rates are rising in Minnesota, caused by a combination of an aging population and a rise in so-called “deaths of despair.”

     No age group has seen a larger increase in death rates than young adults, ages 25 to 34. Between 2010 and 2017, rates of death for this group rose by more than a third in Minnesota, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.

     Spikes in three causes of death are largely to blame: drug overdoses, alcohol-related liver disease, and suicide. Two economists who identified the trend, particularly among middle-aged white Americans, coined the term “deaths of despair.” They pointed at economic insecurity and income inequality as possible causes.

     But deaths of despair aren’t limited to middle-aged Americans. While liver disease caused by drinking is degenerative and generally affects older people, accidental drug fatal overdose rates nearly tripled in Minnesota between 2010 and 2017 for the 25 to 34 age group, from 8.5 deaths per 100,000 people to 22.1 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the CDC.

     But, Jon Roesler, an epidemiologist supervisor at the Minnesota Department of Health, said he prefers to call deaths caused by suicide, drug overdose and alcohol “preventable deaths,” rather than “deaths of despair,” because with the right interventions, there is hope that these types of deaths can be prevented.

     Yes, these deaths are preventable, in large part, by a simple, free program called Alcoholics Anonymous! Google to find a club near you!

(Thanks to MinnPost and Minnesota Public Radio News for portions of this story) 

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