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Dangerous drinking on the rise, especially among young women


Several studies show alcohol-related harms have sharply increased in many high-income countries, including the United States and Canada, and the sharpest rise was seen in young women. Marguerite Gallorini reports on what that means for public health and for the alcohol industry across the border in Ontario.

Dangerous drinking practices are on the rise, especially in young women, according to a recent study from the Ottawa Hospital in Ontario.

“What we saw over the 14-year study period is that there was a 110%, or more than a doubling, of the number of emergency room visits caused by alcohol in women, and a 78% increase in men,” said Dr. Daniel Myran, the lead author of this study and a researcher at the hospital.

Myran said he was surprised by the study’s results.

“One of the more surprising findings was that when we looked by age, we found that younger individuals had, by far, the largest increases, in these emergency room visits caused by alcohol: we saw we saw a 240% increase in women aged 25-29, and 145% increase in men,” he explained.

Beyond the immediate public health issue this represents, Dr. Myran is also concerned that these same individuals will have a lot of long-term alcohol-related issues in 10 to 20 years time.

On the other hand, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce is trying to reconcile this public health issue with the need to streamline the alcohol retail industry. In Canada, interprovincial sales of alcohol, especially direct-to-consumer sales, are fairly restricted.

“What our members and, we believe, Ontario consumers are calling for is a modernized system that, on a responsible basis, provides more consumer choice and more opportunities for local industry to prosper and to grow,” said Rocco Rossi, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce

Rossi wants to emphasize the need for a responsible retail industry and for education campaigns that address young women because "up to now, many of those campaigns have focused on "frat boy behavior" and targeting the message to young men. Clearly that's something that young women need to be aware of also. And it's why, among our 33 recommendations in the report, we have five necessary investments in public health.”

Myran and Rossi both agree on the fact that some kind of cultural change needs to happen, mostly when it comes to dangerous practices like binge-drinking. Myran reminds that “the policies that we put in place and the other interventions that we put in place are designed to limit really heavy, really dangerous drinking – but no one is advocating, nor I think is what we want as a society, to prevent all drinking.”