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Women are drinking more like men, study shows

November 24, 2015
by Julia Brown, Associate Editor
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Traditionally, men drink more alcohol than women. However, according to a recent study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the longstanding differences between men and women in alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms might be narrowing in the U.S.

When examining data from yearly national surveys conducted between 2002 and 2012, researchers found that over a 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.

“This study confirms what other recent reports have suggested about changing patterns of alcohol use by men and women in the U.S.,” said NIAAA Director George F. Koob, Ph.D. in a press statement. He added that the evidence of increasing alcohol use by females is particularly concerning because women are at greater risk than men for a variety of alcohol-related health effects, including liver inflammation, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity and cancer.

Between 2002 and 2012, it was found that 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. Similarly, the average number of drinking days in the past month increased from 6.8 to 7.3 days for females but decreased from 9.9 to 9.5 days for males.

While binge drinking by 18 to 25 year olds in college did not change during that time, for 18 to 25 year olds not in college there was a significant increase among females and a significant decrease among males.

Authors say reasons for the converging patterns of alcohol use are unclear and do not appear to be explained by trends in employment, pregnancy, or marital status. They add that additional studies are needed to identify the psychosocial and environmental contributors to these changes and to assess their implications for prevention and treatment efforts. 

The full report can be found here.