We didn't see that coming: According to new research, an alarming number of Americans have disordered relationships with alcohol.
A bottle of wine at dinner, a few beers at a sporting event, cocktails on a Saturday night—they may all be major players in your social life. But do you know where to draw the line between healthy drinking and an alcohol disorder?
According to new research, many Americans don't—and disordered alcohol consumption is skyrocketing, especially among women. The study, which appears in JAMA Psychiatry, suggests that up to 1 in 8 Americans has an alcohol disorder—and the rise in alcohol disorders is particularly steep among women. The study suggests that there's a nearly 84 percent increase in alcohol use disorders in women in the past 11 years.
Researchers tracked the drinking habits of 40,000 people in 2002 and 2003, then again in 2012 and 2013. They used the American Psychiatric Association's 11-point test to determine whether or not an individual has a drinking disorder. While the amount of alcohol consumed per week is certainly a factor in determining the healthiness of a person's habits (high-risk drinking refers to four or more drinks a day for women; five or more for men, plus one day that exceeds these numbers per week), that's not the only factor. The test also identifies an inability to stop drinking, withdrawal symptoms after one stops drinking, and drinking interfering with responsibilities as signs of a disorder.
There are other groups that saw a major increase where alcohol habits are concerned, but we were most struck by the figures surrounding women. Does this increase surprise you? On the one hand, that increase is a huge one, but on the other hand, we can't deny that women—particularly moms—are under tremendous pressure these days. There's a running pop cultural gag about moms subsisting on wine and coffee alone (cue the "mommy juice" jokes), after all. Does that hint at something larger?
This isn't the first research that indicates alcohol may be affecting women's health—and the health of their babies: Two years ago, the CDC shared a report that indicated one in ten pregnant women admitted to drinking, with about 3 percent of the pregnant women surveyed reporting binge drinking.
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The toughest part about all this? The line between healthy and unhealthy drinking is both fine and murky. There's no single clear-cut factor we can identify when it comes to determining whether someone is in the danger zone, and it's impossible to figure out a one-size-fits-all threshold between enjoying life and imbibing excessively. Our advice? If you think you may be at risk for disordered drinking, chat with your doctor. Chances are, he or she can help you better make sense of your habits and address any potential changes that need to be made.
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