According to a new study conducted by researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the alcohol drinking habits of women and men are becoming more aligned in the U.S.
On average, American men are believed to drink 18 liters of alcohol on an annual basis, and women drink 7.8 liters. Men are still consuming more alcohol; however, it appears the gap is closing.
For the study, the research team analyzed data from national annual surveys that took place between 2002 and 2012. They examined a number of factors, including:
- Drinking patterns
- The number of drinking days per month
- Incidences that involved driving under the influence of alcohol
- The percentage of people with alcohol abuse disorders
The researchers found that the percentage of women who drank alcohol in the previous month increased from 44.9% to 48.3%, but the number had slightly decreased for men from 57.4% down to 56.1%. Also, the average number of days during the previous month when women drank alcohol increased from 6.8 days to 7.3. On the other hand, that number decreased for men from 9.9 days to 9.5.
Researchers are unclear as to why the drinking patterns have changed, and it can’t be explained by trends in pregnancy, marital status, or employment.
“This study confirms what other recent reports have suggested about changing patterns of alcohol use by men and women in the U.S.,” explained NIAAA director Dr. George F. Koob.
It is interesting to note that binge drinking among 18 to 25-year-olds in college did not change, but it changed for people of the same age group who weren’t in college. For example, binge drinking with women in this group increased from 29.1% to 32.6% but it dropped with men, from 49.8% to 45.4%.
The drinking gap widened between males and females when marijuana and alcohol were both involved. The percentage of male drinkers between 18 to 25-years-old who combined alcohol with marijuana in their last drinking occasion had increase from 15% to 19%, but women in the same scenario remained steady at around 10%.
Researchers note that since it takes longer for the female body to break down alcohol, women are more vulnerable to the long-term negative health effects of alcohol (i.e. heart disease, liver inflammation, cancer, and neurotoxicity).
Binge drinking and alcohol addiction is also associated with digestive tract issues, depression, psychiatric disorders, memory and concentration problems, angina, stroke, hypertension, fatty liver degeneration, osteoporosis, and cell damage. The suicide rate is also six times greater in those who drink excessive amounts of alcohol compared with people who consume limited amounts.
Sources for Today’s Article:
Gajanan, M., “Gender gap in alcohol consumption closes as women drink more – study,” theguardian.com, November 24, 2015; http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/nov/24/gender-women-drinking-more-alcohol-men-study.
White, A., et al., “Converging Patterns of Alcohol Use and Related Outcomes Among Females and Males in the United States, 2002 to 2012,” Alcohol, Clinical, and Experimental Research, 2015; 39(9):1712-26. doi: 10.1111/acer.12815.
“Male and female drinking patterns becoming more alike in the US,” National Institutes of Health web site, November 23, 2015; http://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/male-female-drinking-patterns-becoming-more-alike-us.
“Excessive Alcohol Use and Risks to Women’s Health,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web site, last updated November 19, 2014; http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/womens-health.htm, last accessed November 25, 2015.