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Alcohol abuse sent nearly twice as many women to the hospital during pandemic, study finds

·2 mins

The number of women ages 40 to 64 seen at a hospital because of alcohol misuse nearly doubled during the pandemic. Complications of alcohol-related disease rose by 33% to 56% among middle-aged women compared with pre-pandemic times. Drinking among women has increased in the last decade, particularly during the pandemic. The rate of women ages 35-50 having five or more drinks in a row rose twice as fast as men over the last decade. The study analyzed claims from an insurance database of people ages 15 and older to determine the number of emergency room visits and hospitalizations due to alcohol abuse during the pandemic. Among the diagnoses, between 54% and 66% were due to complications from alcohol-related liver disease. Alcohol withdrawal and alcohol-related mood disorders accounted for 29% to 39% of the visits. A small percentage of hospitalizations related to alcohol were due to cardiomyopathy, or a disruption in heart rhythm, and gastric bleeding from alcohol misuse. One explanation for the uptick could be that women already had a problem with alcohol before the pandemic. The pandemic then served as a tipping point, exacerbating their condition. The lack of access to health care during the pandemic may have also contributed to the deterioration. Women are more susceptible to the ill effects of alcohol due to biological factors. The risk for liver damage and cirrhosis is higher for women than men, and heart disease can occur at lower levels of consumption and over fewer years of drinking than men. In addition, cognitive decline and shrinkage of the brain due to alcohol develop more quickly for women than for men. Drinking is also associated with breast cancer in women, even at low levels of consumption. Recognizing alcohol-related issues can involve observing changes in behavior such as increased consumption, mood swings, or neglecting responsibilities. Pouring big drinks without realizing it is another red flag. Seek help from a doctor if struggling with alcohol. There are available medications and behavioral support groups that can offer assistance.