German researchers at the University of Greifswald Medical School found that alcoholic women were twice as likely to die over a 14 year period than alcoholic men.
The research, which included 4,070 Germans including 153 alcoholics, found that female alcoholics were five times more likely to die than women without a drinking problem. In contrast, alcoholic men were twice as likely to die compared to their more sober counterparts.
Study author Ulrich John, an epidemiologist at the University of Greifswald Medical School said the explanation behind this is a simple matter of genetics. "Females, in a more short time span, develop diseases such as liver cirrhosis," he said. This is because the average woman has a higher percentage of body fat, than her male counterpart. Because fat does not absorbed alcohol, the alcohol becomes more concentrated in a woman’s body.
Another factor that causes women to become intoxicated faster is a stomach enzyme called dehydrogenase. This enzyme metabolizes or breaks down alcohol before it can enter the system. Women have substantially less of this enzyme than men this means women absorb up to 30% more alcohol than men of the same height and weight.
Women are also usually shorter and lighter than men, which further concentrates the alcohol in their system. This makes it very dangerous for women to try to keep up with men drink for drink.
In fact, studies have shown one drink for an average woman will have the same effects as two drinks for an average man.
In John’s research, he said that even women who went through alcohol addiction treatment had a similar mortality rate to their alcoholic peers. This is because much of the treatment does not focus on increasing the survival time of alcoholics. John also said the high mortality rate for alcoholics that had gone through treatment might be down to detox. Most treatment programs focuses on detox rather than treating the underlying alcohol problem.
John and his colleagues are not looking for ways to develop screening tests for alcohol problems. By catching the problems early, he hopes to increase the alcoholic survival rate and possibly stop problem drinking before it turns into a full blown addiction.