Women are abusing alcohol at a much higher rate than in the past, a trend researchers fear will be exacerbated by the stresses of the pandemic.
For generations, risky alcohol consumption has been associated with men. But new research show that women are increasingly turning to alcohol. From NPR:
For nearly a century, women have been closing the gender gap in alcohol consumption, binge-drinking and alcohol use disorder. What was previously a 3-1 ratio for risky drinking habits in men versus women is closer to 1-to-1 globally, a 2016 analysis of several dozen studies suggested.
And the latest U.S. data from 2019 shows that women in their teens and early 20s reported drinking and getting drunk at higher rates than their male peers — in some cases for the first time since researchers began measuring such behavior.
Studies suggests that women are more likely to consume alcohol to cope with stress, a narrative made acceptable by pop culture norms. Harvard Health Publishing explains, “you only need to glance at social media to get the message that there is a “cure” for pandemic-related stress: alcohol. Social media sites are rife with memes of moms drinking to relieve their stress.”
The uptick in female consumption is particularly concern since women are more likely to suffer the ill effects of alcohol. More from Harvard Health Publishing:
Because women absorb and metabolize alcohol differently than men, they are more susceptible to the negative physical consequences of alcohol, including liver disease, heart disease, and cognitive impairment. It is estimated that one-third of breast cancer cases could be prevented if women did not drink alcohol, were physically active, and maintained healthy weight.
In a 2018 article published in U.S. News, Aaron White, a neuroscientist at National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism explains that alcohol and mental health issues are a toxic mix for women: “We’re seeing huge increases in depression and anxiety and suicide attempts among adolescents and young adults, particularly females. So, even if there aren’t more of them drinking, we’re worried that those who are drinking are going to be more likely to drink to try to cope with all that, which … can be a disaster.”
Harvard Health offers the following guidance to avoid stress drinking:
Prioritizing healthy eating, sleep, and exercise can help boost your physical and mental health. Although physical distancing is necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19, people should avoid socially isolating themselves from friends, family, and loved ones. Maintain a daily routine to avoid boredom, as boredom can often lead to alcohol use.