A new study has found that women may be out-drinking men for the first time. Experts warn the normalisation of everyday alcohol consumption is putting women at risk of long-term health issues.
The claim comes following the results of a global study which has been collecting data from four million adults since 1948. The research found a huge difference in drinking habits between men and women over the last century and suggests that any differences in habits have now been almost entirely eliminated.
In the past, men were twice as likely as women to drink alcohol and three times more likely to do so at a harmful level. With the gap between male and female drinking narrowing by about 3% every five years, almost no difference was found in the habits of today’s young men and women.
Researchers are also concerned that women born after 1981 may even be drinking more than their male peers. Similar gender patterns were seen in problem and binge drinking and in harm caused by alcohol.
In response to the results, Dr Tim Slade from the University of New South Wales said that programmes need to do more to target female drinking:
“Alcohol use and alcohol use disorders have historically been viewed as a male phenomenon. The present study calls this assumption into question and suggests that young women in particular should be the target of concerted efforts to reduce the impact of substance use and related harms.”
Discussing what could be causing the increase in the number of women drinking to dangerous levels, Emily Robinson from the charity Alcohol Concern commented:
“Since the 1950s, we’ve seen women’s drinking continue to rise. Drinking at home has continued to increase and because alcohol is so cheap and easily available, it has become an everyday grocery item. We’ve also seen a concerted effort from the alcohol industry to market products and brands specifically to women.”
“People often don’t realise that alcohol has become a habit rather than a pleasure.”
Alcohol Concern has called for mandatory health warnings to be placed on alcohol bottles so that people are armed with the information they need to keep within the recommended limits. If people know the effects that drinking has on their mental and physical health, they are far less likely to drink.
Signs you may be drinking too much
- Once you start drinking you can’t stop – if you find yourself regularly going over your self-defined limit, it’s a sign that you’re losing control over your drinking. If you can’t just have a couple and then walk away, it may be time to think about your drinking habits.
- Other people comment on your drinking – we’re often in denial about our behaviours because we always find a way of justifying them to ourselves. If other people have started expressing surprise about how much or how often you drink, there could be a problem. Try to keep a log of everything you drink for a week and if you’re surprised at the result, may be time to cut back.
- All your plans revolve around alcohol – you’re stepping into dangerous territory when your life seems to revolve around alcohol. When the only place you will socialise is at the pub, you absolutely have to get a bottle of wine with dinner or you’re always egging others on to drink as much as you, your drinking is likely to become problematic.
- You’re using alcohol as a coping mechanism – we’ve all reached for the bottle after a bad day at some point but if you’re doing this on a regular basis, it could be a sign of a problem. You could be using alcohol to mask underlying issues but while it may feel like it’s providing you with short-term relief, it’s going to backfire pretty quickly. Soon enough you will be trying to deal with the pressures of everyday life as well as the stress of a drinking problem.
- You’re worried about your drinking – if you think you’re drinking too much, you probably are, otherwise it wouldn’t be concerning you.
- Your drinking is taking a toll on your health – you regularly wake up hungover and your diet is slipping and you’ve stopped exercising as a result. Despite the fact you feel awful all the time, you don’t seem to be able to stop drinking. This is a definite clue that you may have become more dependent on alcohol than you realise.
- You don’t remember what you did the night before –while many people laugh this kind of behaviour off, it shouldn’t be seen as okay for this to happen and if it happens regularly, this is a strong indicator your drinking is out of control.
If you think that you or someone you know could have a problem with alcohol, please feel free to visit our Alcohol Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation page for more information about the signs, symptoms and treatments that are available.