Manitoba

Alcohol killing more Canadian women, but hospitalizations dip in Manitoba

New numbers from the Canadian Institute for Health Information say the rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations are rising at a faster rate for women than men in Canada.

Despite 1-year dip in alcohol-related hospitalizations, more women seeking help from Manitoba addictions group

Since 2001, the number of women dying from directly alcohol-related causes jumped 26 per cent countrywide, compared to a five per cent increase for men, say numbers from the Canadian Institute for Health Information. (Rob Shumski/YouTube)

New numbers from the Canadian Institute for Health Information say the rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations are rising at a faster rate for women than men in Canada.

Since 2001, the number of women dying of alcohol-related causes jumped 26 per cent across the country, compared to a five per cent increase for men, say numbers released by CIHI on Thursday.

The numbers also say more than 25,000 women had alcohol-related hospitalizations in 2016-17, a nearly three per cent increase over the previous year.

While the study says the rate of alcohol-related hospitalizations of women in Manitoba recently dipped, dropping 8.5 per cent from 2015 to 2016, the number of women seeking help from the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba has risen, said medical director Dr. Ginette Poulin.

There was a year-over-year increase in the number of women coming to the organization for help with both alcohol and drug addiction, Poulin said.

'Negative outcomes'

"When women are seeking access here in Manitoba, they themselves are more likely to report the daily use of substances, including alcohol, cannabis and other substances. They're also more likely to report injection of substances as well," she said.

Poulin said women are more likely to combine alcohol with substances such as benzodiazepines, which increases the risk of hospitalization and death.

Since 2014-15, Poulin has seen more and more women visiting the Addictions Foundation with lower life satisfaction, self-reported mental health issues and amphetamine issues.

"While crystal meth and opioids have captured some of the attention … it's always important to remember that alcohol, even though it is a legal substance and culturally and socially it has been more acceptable, there are a lot of negative outcomes and a lot of risks," she said.

"We are dealing with the outcomes, day in and day out, of alcohol, and yet it doesn't always get the attention that other substances [get]."

Societal shift

Joseph Amuah, a senior researcher with the health performance branch of CIHI, said the rise in harmful drinking by women may be due to a shift in gender roles and greater economic opportunity for women.

The higher rates of death and hospitalization may also be caused by the difference in the physiological response women have to alcohol compared to men, he said.

Women can drink less alcohol and still end up with a higher blood-alcohol concentration, he said.

"That makes for quite a more pronounced response to increases in the rates of things like heavy and binge drinking."

Numbers from Manitoba's chief medical examiner say 20 Manitobans died of acute alcohol poisoning in 2015 (16 men, four women), 12 died in 2016 (seven men, five women) and 12 died in 2017 (eight men, four women). The numbers don't include those who died in alcohol-related accidents or those who died with both drugs and alcohol in their system.

The CIHI report says 187 women per 100,000 in Manitoba were hospitalized for reasons entirely caused by alcohol in 2015, and that number dropped to 171 per 100,000 in 2016.

The rates of alcohol-related hospitalization in Manitoba men fell 3.2 per cent over the same period.

Manitoba data lacking

Overall, the rate of alcohol-related hospitalization for both men and women fell five per cent from 2015 to 2016, said Amuah, who warned the more hopeful numbers out of Manitoba may not show the entire picture.

"These are only two years of hospitalization data that we've looked at [in Manitoba], so sometimes some these indicators need a little time to indicate a sustained decline or increase," he said.

Conditions considered to be "entirely caused by the harmful consumption of alcohol" include alcoholic liver disease, mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol and accidental alcohol poisoning, Amuah said.

About the Author

Shane Gibson

Reporter

Shane is a CBC Manitoba journalist with nearly a decade of experience reporting in Winnipeg and around Manitoba. Email: shane.gibson@cbc.ca.