Gender gap for alcohol abuse reduced

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By Piriya Mahendra, medwireNews Reporter

The predominance of men among patients admitted to psychiatric hospitals because of alcohol abuse has declined compared with 25 years ago in Iceland, while the gender gap for other substance use disorders has not changed, say researchers.

"Our results emphasize the importance of monitoring changes in substance use disorder diagnosis as this may uncover different treatment needs in this group of vulnerable patients," report Steinn Steingrímsson (Landspitali Hospital, Reykjavík, Iceland) and team write in Addiction.

Of the 15,192 psychiatric admissions in Iceland between 1983 and 2007, the number of any substance use disorder admission increased significantly during this period, from 0.14% of men admitted in 1983 to 0.18% in 2007 and 0.08% of women admitted in 1983 to 0.15% in 2007.

The authors note that this increase was most significantly pronounced in substance use disorders rather than just alcohol use disorder.

The number of men receiving a discharge diagnosis of alcohol abuse but no other substance use disorder significantly decreased during the 25-year period. However, the number of women receiving a diagnosis of alcohol abuse significantly increased over time.

The gender gap in alcohol abuse, quantified by the male-to-female ratio, decreased during the study period from 4.2 in 1983 to 1.5 in 2007.

Conversely, the male-to-female ratio for substance use disorders other than alcohol abuse alone did not change significantly. In fact, during 1996, 2002, and 2007, there was no statistically significant change in the gender gap.

The researchers report that overall, the male-to-female ratio for any substance use disorder discharge diagnosis decreased. They say that the reasons for this narrowing gender gap are not clear, but acknowledge that other authors have previously suggested it might be due to changes in cultural and social norms, with more equal rights for women resulting in more widespread and accepted alcohol use among women.

"These results indicate that psychiatric services need to monitor changes in societal factors, as they may be associated with altering treatment needs for psychiatric inpatients," Steingrímsson and team conclude.

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