Heavy drink­ing is killing women in record num­bers

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Kim­berly Kindy and Dan Keat­ing

The ads started pop­ping up about a decade ago on so­cial me­dia. In­stead of sell­ing al­co­hol with sex and ro­mance, these ads had an edgier theme: Har­ried moth­ers chug­ging wine to cope with ev­ery­day stress. Women em­brac­ing quart­sized bot­tles of whiskey, and bel­ly­ing up to bars to knock back vodka shots with men.

In this new strain of ad­ver­tis­ing, women’s lib­er­a­tion equaled heavy drink­ing, and al­co­hol re­searchers say it both her­alded and pro­moted a pro­found cul­tural shift: Women in Amer­ica are drink­ing far more, and far more fre­quently, than their moth­ers or grand­moth­ers did, and al­co­hol con­sump­tion is killing them in record num­bers.

White women are par­tic­u­larly likely to drink dan­ger­ously, with more than a quar­ter drink­ing mul­ti­ple times a week and the share of binge drink­ing up 40 per­cent since 1999, ac­cord­ing to a Wash­ing­ton Post anal­y­sis of fed­eral health data. In 2013, more than a mil­lion women of all races wound up in emer­gency rooms as a re­sult of heavy drink­ing, with women in mid­dle age most likely to suf­fer se­vere in­tox­i­ca­tion.

This be­hav­ior has contributed to a star­tling in­crease in early mor­tal­ity. The rate of al­co­hol-re­lated deaths for white women ages 35 to 54 has more than dou­bled since 1999, ac­cord­ing to The Post anal­y­sis, ac­count­ing for 8 per­cent of deaths in this age group in 2015.

“It is a loom­ing health cri­sis,” said Kather­ine M. Keyes, an al­co­hol re­searcher at Columbia Univer­sity.

Al­though in­de­pen­dent re­searchers are in­creas­ingly con­vinced that any amount of al­co­hol poses se­ri­ous health risks, Amer­i­can women are still re­ceiv­ing mixed mes­sages.

Mean­while, many ads for al­co­hol ap­pear to pro­mote ex­ces­sive drink­ing, which is uni­ver­sally rec­og­nized as po­ten­tially deadly. These ads also ap­pear to vi­o­late the in­dus­try’s code of ethics, ac­cord­ing to a Post anal­y­sis of al­co­hol mar­ket­ing.

For ex­am­ple, when girlpower hero­ine Amy Schumer guz­zled Ban­dit boxed wine in the movie “Train­wreck,” Ban­dit’s pro­ducer, Trinchero Fam­ily Es­tates, pro­moted the scene on so­cial me­dia. Young women re­sponded with pho­tos of them­selves chug­ging Ban­dit. Within months, Trinchero said, sales of boxed wines — some­times called “binge in a box” — jumped 22 per­cent.

Some of the edgi­est ads ap­pear on so­cial me­dia, where they can be nar­rowly tar­geted to­ward the in­boxes of the most ea­ger con­sumers. Jokes about be­com­ing ine­bri­ated are com­mon. One Twit­ter ad fea­tures a woman with a bot­tle the size of a re­frig­er­a­tor tilted to­ward her lips. Its con­tents: Fire­ball Cin­na­mon Whisky.

Women also are fre­quently shown drink­ing to cope with daily stress. In one im­age that ap­peared on a com­pany web­site, two white women wear­ing prim, nar­row-brimmed hats, but­ton ear­rings and wash-and-set hair con­fer side by side. “How much do you spend on a bot­tle of wine?” one asks. The other an­swers, “I would guess about half an hour.” At the bot­tom is the name of the wine: Mommy’s Time Out.

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