Women are drinking more like men, study shows

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A recent study shows that the drinking habits of men and women in the U.S. are becoming more alike, in that men are drinking less and women are drinking more. This is not great news for women.


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) discussed the results in a statement released yesterday. NIAAA Director George F. Koob explained, "This study confirms what other recent reports have suggested about changing patterns of alcohol use by men and women in the U.S." Generally, men far outpace women in terms of how often and how much they drink.

The research was led by Aaron White of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and looked at the drinking habits of American men and women from 2002–2012. The findings were published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. In the paper's abstract, the authors detailed the type of data they were working with:

Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health were used to assess the prevalence and trends for females and males aged 12+ in lifetime abstinence, age of onset, current drinking, binge drinking, drinking and driving, reaching DSM-IV criteria for an alcohol use disorder, combining alcohol with other drugs such as marijuana, and other variables. Of particular interest was whether differences between females and males narrowed during the decade under study.

And the NIH breaks down what they learned:

The percentage of people who drank alcohol in the previous 30 days increased for females from 44.9 percent to 48.3 percent, but decreased for males from 57.4 percent to 56.1 percent between 2002 and 2012.  Over that time, the average number of drinking days in the past month also increased for females, from 6.8 to 7.3 days, but decreased slightly for males, from 9.9 to 9.5 days.

The NIH added that binge drinking among college students aged 18–25 remained steady over the time period in question, but that the number of 18–25 year old men who engaged in binge drinking decreased over time. The opposite was true for women in this category (though the rate remains higher for men).

The researchers did, however, find one area in which the drinking behaviors of men and women grew less alike: More young, male adults are boozing when they get high than young, female adults. “The prevalence of combining alcohol with marijuana during the last drinking occasion among 18 to 25 year old male drinkers increased from 15 percent to 19 percent… 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 percent,” White stated.


Koob noted that the findings are troubling because women are at higher risk of contracting heart diseases and other maladies caused by alcohol consumption—like liver inflammation, neurotoxicity and cancer—than men.

Still, as NBC News points out, more women than men don't drink at all, and men are still generally the ones getting into trouble:

And while 25 percent of men say they never drink, 37 percent of women abstain. Men are more likely to be arrested for driving under the influence, to be hospitalized with alcohol poisoning and to die in alcohol related traffic accidents.


So there's that.

Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.