Gender Differences in the Epidemiology of Alcohol Use and Related Harms in the United States

Alcohol Research: Current Reviews | Vol 40 No 2 | Epub 2020 October 29

Aaron M. WhiteNational Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland

Over the past century, differences in alcohol use and related harms between males and females in the United States have diminished considerably. In general, males still consume more alcohol and experience and cause more alcohol-related injuries and deaths than females do, but the gaps are narrowing. Among adolescents and emerging adults, gaps in drinking have narrowed primarily because alcohol use among males has declined more than alcohol use among females. Among adults, alcohol use is increasing for women but not for men. Rates of alcohol-related emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths all have increased among adults during the past 2 decades. Consistent with the changing patterns of alcohol use, increases in these outcomes have been larger for women. Recent studies also suggest that females are more susceptible than males to alcohol-induced liver inflammation, cardiovascular disease, memory blackouts, hangovers, and certain cancers. Prevention strategies that address the increases in alcohol consumption and unique health risks for women are needed.

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