Gender gap in alcohol consumption closes as women drink more – study
Reasons for increased alcohol use remain unclear, but researchers say findings are ‘particularly concerning’ since women are prone to its negative health effects
Source: The Guardian
Mahita Gajanan in New York
24 November 2015
The drinking habits of men and women in the US are becoming more alike, a new study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has found.
Although men have generally outpaced women in how much and how often they drink, the gap is closing as women’s alcohol consumption increases.
In an examination of data from yearly national surveys conducted between 2002 and 2012, researchers found that differences between men and women in alcohol consumption and alcohol-related incidents narrowed in several different measures.
Among other things, the study evaluated the number of days a person drinks each month, incidents of driving while under the influence of alcohol, and the number of people who had symptoms of an alcohol use disorder, according to Aaron White, the lead researcher. Findings were published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
White and his team found the percentage of those who drank alcohol in the previous month increased for women to 48.3% from 44.9%, but decreased for men to 56.1% from 57.4% between 2002 and 2012. The average number of days women drank within the previous 30 days also increased, to 7.3 days from 6.8 days, while the number of days decreased for men, to 9.5 days from 9.9.
Reasons for the patterns that emerged between 2002 and 2012 remained unclear, and could not be explained by recent trends in employment, pregnancy or marital status, according to the researchers.
“This study confirms what other recent reports have suggested about changing patterns of alcohol use by men and women in the US,” George Koob, NIAAA director, said in a statement.
Koob said the data was “particularly concerning” since women are at greater risk than men of negative alcohol-related health effects such as liver inflammation, cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurotoxicity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, female body structure and chemistry makes it so women take longer to metabolize alcohol, meaning that they are more vulnerable than men to the long-term health effects of alcohol.
Among 18- to 25-year-olds not in college, the researchers found that binge drinking among women increased to 32.6% from 29.1%, while among men it decreased to 45.4% from 49.8%. But binge drinking among college students of the same age group did not change between 2002 and 2012.
White said there was only one measure, among any age group, in which the drinking difference between men and women grew wider – the combination of marijuana and alcohol.
“The prevalence of combining alcohol with marijuana during the last drinking occasion among 18- to 25-year-old male drinkers increased from 15% to 19%, while the prevalence of combining alcohol with marijuana during the last drinking occasion among 18- to 25-year-old female drinkers remained steady at about 10%,” White said.