In Drinking Deaths, Men and Women are Not Equal

alcohol and womenA new study of 2.5 million people found that women who drink are far more likely to die from alcohol related causes than their male counterparts. In fact, the research shows that as the amount of alcohol consumed goes up, the mortality rate for women increases far faster than for men.

 The mortality rate for heavy drinking women was especially high. The editor-in-chief of the Journal of Women’s health, Susan G. Kornstean, MD said, "While alcoholism is more common in men than women, female drinkers face greater risks to their health compared with male drinkers,"   

The reasoning behind these findings was not addressed in the study but there are a few likely reasons for the increase in deaths.

First of all, women are, on average, smaller than men. The lower body weight means that when women drink the same amount as a heavier man, the alcohol is more concentrated in their system. This means that, on average,  a smaller amount of alcohol can do more damage to a woman, get her drunk faster and possibly make her more intoxicated than a man.

Women also have higher natural ratios of fat to water. This means alcohol consumed by a woman will be even more concentrated in her system because there is a lower proportion of water to fat in which to dilute the drinks.

Some studies have also shown in the first pass through a women’s liver and stomach can metabolize only about 23 percent of the alcohol processed by a man’s liver and stomach.

Finally, Women have much lower levels of an enzyme called gastric alcohol dehydrogenase. This interesting little compound actually breaks alcohol down making it harmless to the human body. Women have about half as much of this enzyme as men. 

To learn more about alcohol addiction, visit the Life Works Knowledge Centre.

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