Alcohol-Related Death Statistics Show Women & LGBTQ Folks Are Increasingly Affected

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Over the last few decades, the yearly number of alcohol-related deaths has been on the rise. While these deaths have been increasing for nearly everyone, various studies suggest that these numbers might be on the rise particularly for people who aren't cisgender men. According to one such new study, there were over 1 million alcohol-related deaths between 1999 and 2017, NBC News reports.

Native American women and white women across all age groups have been increasingly likely to die from alcohol-related reasons in recent years, according to a 2020 study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. While the same study found that alcohol-related deaths are increasing for almost all demographic groups, the rates are rising more sharply for women, particularly middle-aged women living in rural areas.

In multiple studies focused on LGBTQ youth and trans people of all ages, research shows that deaths related to alcohol use are directly associated with discrimination and resulting stigma. The rates of alcohol-related deaths may be increasing among cis women, the studies acknowledge, but the rates of hazardous alcohol use among trans and nonbinary people are consistently higher than their cisgender peers.

Minority stress, victimization, and other forms of oppression experienced by people who aren't cis men are, according to studies, huge contributing factors in alcohol-related deaths. The most recent research, outlined here, suggests that combating discrimination may be key to reducing these rates for folks with minoritized genders.

1. Trans People At Higher Risk Of Alcohol-Related Deaths Than Cis Peers

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A 2017 study, published in the Journal of Primary Prevention, studied the alcohol and drug use patterns of more than 1,200 transgender adults across the United States. Over 21.5% of participants reported excessive alcohol use, though the study could find little difference between drinking rates in trans women and men. Gender dysphoria and gender minority stressors were strongly associated with heightened risk of alcohol-related death for trans folks of all genders.

2. LGBTQ Youth More Likely Than Cis Straight Peers To Use Alcohol

A 2019 study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence found that LGBTQ youth are far more likely to use alcohol than their cisgender, straight peers. Over 11,000 LGBTQ young people between the ages of 13 and 17 participated in this study, which concluded that the more these young people experienced discrimination and resulting internalized stigma, the more hazardous and frequent their alcohol use became. For example, bisexual boys were more likely to drink heavily and frequently than gay boys, and the rates of drinking were directly correlated with experiences of rejection and stigmatization.

3. White Women Are Increasingly At Risk Of Alcohol-Related Death

A 2020 study, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, found that the number of deaths from liver-disease and other alcohol-related overdoses more than doubled between 1999 and 2017. While Native American men consistently experienced the highest rates, the largest yearly increase in alcohol-related deaths occurred for white women, for whom rates increased across all age groups. However, while women aged 55 to 64 experienced increases in deaths related to a single alcohol-related incident (often related to falls), women between the ages of 25 and 34 were more likely to die of chronic alcohol use, defined as complications related to drinking heavily over a long period of time.

Risk from alcohol-related deaths might be increasing across all demographic groups, but recent studies make it clear that the trends also need to be looked at in context with gender and sexuality. With LGBTQ youth, women, and trans men of all ages, rates of alcohol use and alcohol-related deaths are higher and rising at more rapid rates than cis male peers, which is something everyone needs to be aware of.

If you or someone you know is seeking help for substance use, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357).

Studies Referenced:

Moon, AM. (2020) Rising mortality from alcohol-associated liver disease in the United States in the 21st century. American Journal of Gastroenterology, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31688021.

White, AM. (2020) Using death certificates to explore changes in alcohol‐related mortality in the United States, 1999 to 2017. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/acer.14239.

Watson, RJ. (2019) Sexual and gender minority youth alcohol use: Within-group differences in associations with internalized stigma and victimization. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31605292.

Gonsalez, CA. (2017) Demographic characteristics, components of sexuality and gender, and minority stress and their associations to excessive alcohol, cannabis, and illicit (noncannabis) drug use among a large sample of transgender people in the United States. The Journal of Primary Prevention, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28405831.