Women Catching Up To Men In Alcohol Use, Abuse, and Alcoholism

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Women Catching Up To Men In Alcohol Use, Abuse, and Alcoholism

In the past, most research has determined that men are more likely to drink alcohol that women, as well as engage in alcohol abuse, binge-drinking, and alcoholism. However, a new analysis published recently in BMJ Open revealed that the disparity is beginning to decrease – and in general, worldwide.

For the study, researchers collected data from 68 studies on alcohol use among both women and men across the world. Study years ranged from 1948-2014, and included a sample size of over 4 million persons.

Also, many studies tracked subjects for two decades or more, ranging from 20-30 years. This data was broken up into 5-year increments to assign age brackets. Then they examined three data points – alcohol use, alcohol abuse, and alcohol-related health problems (presumed due to alcoholism.)

They found that the disparity between alcohol use reported by men and women has declined over the past 70 years. That is, men born in the early 1900’s were more than twice as likely to consume alcohol than their female counterparts. However, males born in the late 1900s, on the other hand, were only slightly more likely to drink alcohol than females.

In addition, the gap in alcohol abuse (such as binge-drinking) and alcohol-related health problems has also narrowed. It’s most evidenced among young adults, or more specifically, millennials:

“Findings confirm the closing male–female gap in indicators of alcohol use and related harms. The closing male–female gap is most evident among young adults, highlighting the importance of prospectively tracking young male and female cohorts as they age into their 30s, 40s and beyond.”

It’s not entirely certain whether women are drinking more or men are drinking less, but other studies have pointed to the former.

Commentary

There may be a number of reasons for the dwindling disparity in men and women’s alcohol consumption, but it’s likely driven by the vastly different roles that have developed for women in the last few decades. Women are more independent, have more of their own money, and as a result, have also began to suffer many of the stressors that were associated mostly with men in the past.

There’s also a reduced stigma for women (and men) who drink wine versus liquor or beer. There’s no reason for it, other than cultural differences that surround wine consumption versus other alcoholic beverages. And the fact that wine production has increased, resulting in prices dropping is probably not merely coincidental.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

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