Alcohol-Related Deaths Surge Among Women

By Beth Leipholtz 11/28/18

A new study revealed that alcohol-related deaths among women have increased substantially from 2007 to 2017.

woman drinking alcohol - alcohol-related deaths among women

Despite being overshadowed by the current opioid epidemic, alcohol kills more people each year than opioids—and it’s hitting women especially hard, with the death rate rising 67% between 2007 and 2017. 

Lawyer Erika Byrd was 42 when she died in 2011. A few months before her death, after leaving a treatment center, Byrd had lunch with her father and admitted that alcohol had made her into a different person. Though doctors never said alcohol killed her, her father Ron says he knows it did.

"The death certificate never says alcoholism," he says. "It said heart arrhythmia and heart valve disease. But nobody in our family had heart problems."

According to USA Today, the new statistics come from a recent analysis from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. The analysis examined alcohol deaths in the 10 years between 2007 and 2017 and found that overall, the death rate increased by 24%.

However, the numbers when it came to women were especially concerning with the increase of 67%. In contrast, the rate for men increased 29%. According to USA Today, alcohol-related deaths include those caused by cancer, liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis and suicide. 

Another study published last year in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research supports the idea that alcohol is becoming more problematic among women in particular.

In the study, researchers examined data from emergency room visits from 2006 to 2014 and found that there was a significant increase among middle-aged women when it came to visits related to acute and chronic alcohol use. 

According to New York City attorney and author Lisa Smith, who has been in recovery for 10 years, alcohol is a growing issue but isn’t being treated as such.

"It is poison, and we’re treating it like it's something other than that because there‘s big corporate money behind it," she told USA Today. "A lot of people are getting really rich on something that is toxic to us."

Ali Mokdad, a professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, tells USA Today that there are often differences in problem drinking for men and women. In particular, he points out that women often begin drinking casually as a way to de-stress after the workday and the problem builds from there. 

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, an author and podcast host, agrees. “Moms just aren't going to call home and say they're stopping for a couple drinks after work with friends or going to the gym to unwind," she tells USA Today. Instead, she says, they will drink at home while preparing dinner or relaxing.

This was the case for Amy Durham, who nearly died from her drinking six years ago, at the age of 40. Durham was taken to the hospital with triple organ failure and ended up in a coma for more than a week. Afterward, she was on dialysis and placed on a liver transplant list. 

Now, she has been in recovery for six years and works in the field, using her own story to reduce the stigma for women.

"I want to show the world what recovery looks like, especially for women where stigma is still the way it is," Durham says. "I want people to know there is hope."

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.