Alcohol deaths are down for many groups but there is a worrying rise in alcohol fatalities for young women according to a new study.
Researchers have analysed deaths for men and women in Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester between 1980 and 2011. They found that the alcohol deaths in most groups had decreased or held steady but women born in the 1970s were actually more likely to die from alcohol.
Researchers say this should be a warning to all young women about their drinking habits.
In a snapshot example from the study, researchers compared alcohol related death rates for women born in different decades when they reached 35 years old. They found that, for women born in the 1950s, eight out of every 100,000 died as a result of alcohol, for women born in the 60s, that number climbed to 14 in 100,000. Women born in the 70s had a 20 in 100,000 chance of dying as a result of alcohol.
These numbers are still far below those of men but many experts are still worried. Sally Marlow from the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London told the BBC that this trend might be a “ticking time bomb” of female alcohol problems.
Marlow said that women born in the 70s may have been affected by the ladette culture of the 90s. "We had women very out there, embracing male behaviours - one of which was excessive drinking," she said.
This is very troubling as women are far more vulnerable to alcohol related issues than men. There are three reasons for this. The first is that women, on average, are smaller than men. That means alcohol becomes concentrated more quickly in their bodies. The second reason is that women tend to have a higher fat to water ratio than men. As men have more water in their bodies, they are more able to dilute alcohol in their blood. Finally, women produce less of a chemical called alcohol dehydrogenase (AHD). This actually helps metabolise alcohol so it can be dealt with in the liver. That means alcohol remains in women’s systems longer than in men’s.
As Marlow rightly points out, this causes women to suffer more harm from low levels of alcohol than men.
As the consumption of alcohol among women has gone up, so has the likelihood of liver disease, fertility problems, breast cancer and other alcohol related harm.
The team of researchers responsible for this latest study said that if there is not a swift policy response to this new trend, there could be negative effects for decades. They believe that cheaper alcohol that is easy to buy, better marketing and longer drinking hours have all played their part in this problem.
The experts responsible for the study say that minimum pricing on alcohol could have helped reduce the harm to women but unfortunately the idea has been put aside in both England and Wales.
Currently, the department of health is banning alcohol sales below the level of duty free plus VAT to help stem the tide of cheap alcohol and help reduce harmful drinking.