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Women and Alcohol: Normalizing Alcohol Abuse

Women and Alcohol: Normalizing Alcohol Abuse

Drinking wine, for women, has become almost as “normal” as indulging on chocolate, it seems.

There are growing numbers of well-educated women who are struggling with alcoholism. For instance, in Britain, women’s rates of alcohol abuse equal that of men. In most European countries, however, women drink more than the recommended amounts in the United States, but have fewer abuse problems and higher life expectancies. Compared to other cultures, Americans lead overwhelmed lives and don’t know how to moderate their drinking.

The poster girl of modern alcoholic female: doesn’t look like our mother’s drunk.

Women and Alcohol: Statistics

There is recent research to look at the rising number of women who abuse alcohol.

“Our latest epidemiological surveys show that more than 5% of women in the United States have alcohol use disorders,” said Dr. Deidra Roach, a health science administrator in the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism division of treatment and recovery research.

An analysis of national surveys shows that 47% of white women were regular drinkers in 2002, up from 37% a decade earlier. Among black women, the rate rose from 21% to 30%; among Hispanic women, from 24% to 32%.

The overall gap between women and men who have alcohol problems seems to be narrowing,” she said. “Typically, we know from our population surveys that the people who consume the most are highly educated women with high incomes.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10% of women between 45 and 64 say they binge drink; and so do 3% of those over 65.

Drunk driving arrests are on the rise among women as are emergency room visits for alcohol-related accidents, according to traffic surveys.

We have normalized drinking,” she said. “We look at red wine like it’s dark chocolate. We know the downsides of the tanning bed and trans fats, but not the downside of our favorite drug.”

Women and Alcohol: Trend Factors

Research looking at the rising number of women who abuse alcohol theorizes the factors behind this growing trend.

Women feel a “sense of entitlement that we can do everything a man can do,” and the sociological revolution that tells women that they have to be perfect in every role, including being perfectly thin, being perfect parents and being perfect at work.

Unlike men, who tend to abuse alcohol in social settings, women drink at home alone and self-medicate their anxiety and depression with wine and other alcohol.

Drinking is a coping mechanism for many women, especially mothers with children young enough to still live at home.

Women and Alcohol: Health Risks

Though men are more likely to drink and in larger amounts, differences in body structure and chemistry mean women are more vulnerable to alcohol’s long-term effects on their health.

Their risks for liver disease, memory loss and brain shrinkage, and heart damage are greater than for men. Alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon and breast among women.

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