Women are drinking more, and they’re paying for it with their health.
Drinking rates among women have risen in recent decades, and now they’re getting hit with related complications in higher numbers.
These are the findings of a seven-year study published in the medical journal Hepatology. The study followed more than 100 million privately insured Americans.
During the study period, alcohol-related cirrhosis rose 30 percent among men and 50 percent among women. The mean age at diagnosis was 53.5.
Women are now receiving diagnoses of alcohol use-related disorders at twice the rate of men.
The researchers also found that people with alcohol-related cirrhosis were disproportionately sicker at diagnosis. They were admitted and readmitted to the hospital more often. And their healthcare costs were almost twice those of people with nonalcoholic cirrhosis.
“When I look at this data, it tells me that this is a big problem,” said Dr. Jessica Mellinger in a statement. Mellinger is a gastroenterologist and health services researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.
The problem may be much bigger than the study was able to capture.
Mellinger and her team conducted their study using the Truven MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters database.
This included only medical claims involving people aged 18 to 64 who had private insurance through an employer. The researchers didn’t use data from Medicare or Medicaid, as it didn't include information on substance use.
In the group that was studied, the rate of alcohol-related cirrhosis is even higher than some common cancers.
Dr. Anton Bilchik is a professor of surgery and chief of gastrointestinal research at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California.
He believes the uninsured and underserved population may have an even higher incidence of cirrhosis.
“We know there’s a higher incidence of cancer due to poor screening and more risk factors such as obesity,” explained Bilchik.