Recently, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) released a study that shows that women are beginning to drink just as much as men in the United States. For decades men have typically consumed much more alcohol than women. Generally, men’s bodies can handle more alcohol than women due to height and weight differentials, and the culture has supported an environment where men drink more than women. However, this is all starting to change, according to the research conducted by the NIAAA.
“We found that over that period of time, differences in measures such as current drinking, number of drinking days per month, reaching criteria for an alcohol use disorder, and driving under the influence of alcohol in the past year, all narrowed for females and males. Males still consume more alcohol, but the differences between men and women are diminishing,” explained Aaron White, lead researcher on the study.
This information is particularly alarming because women’s bodies are not as equipped to handle as much alcohol as men and are more susceptible to alcohol-related diseases. Liver inflammation, cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurotoxicity are more likely to occur in women who consume larger amounts.
Despite uncovering the fact that women are beginning to drink nearly equal quantities, the researchers are not sure what the cause for this trend change is. Some people speculate that because more women are working than in past studies, they are in environments where alcohol is much more prevalent, such as entertaining clients and co-workers. Other reasons for this change could have to do with increased social media exposure where drinking is often highlighted or a general increase in acceptance to alcohol. There is also the pop culture influence with heavy drinking and partying being glorified on the radio, tv and online.
Better education and prevention programs will be important factors when it comes to women’s health as it relates to alcohol consumption and other related issues. This also impacts treatment facilities as more women wind up needing help, as additional gender-specific components will be required.