Women are reportedly drinking as much as men in more recent generations, putting them at risk for alcoholism and other addictive disorders. Just compared to a few decades past, women are more inclined to drink openly during social engagements and reach for a bottle to drown out their worries. As stereotypes and barriers are stifled in modern society, a new generation of women alcoholics are born.
New studies provide insight into exactly how narrow these gender gaps are becoming. A research team from Australia examined 68 alcohol-use studies from around the world, dating back to the mid-1900s. The team discovered what they called a “gender convergence,” a review which they published in October of 2015. Their findings reveal that women are becoming increasingly more at risk for alcohol use disorders, compared to earlier decades.
The study found that men born in the early 20th century were more than twice as likely to drink alcohol and three times as likely to have a problem with drinking and/or alcohol use disorder. When we get closer to the end of the century, the statistics narrow. Compared to earlier numbers, men born after 1980 are only 1.1 times more likely to drink alcohol and 1.3 times more likely to develop alcoholism. The differences in alcoholic tendencies and behaviors between men and women have become almost nonexistent. The question now falls to, why? Why are women more inclined to drink larger amounts of alcohol compared to earlier generations?
Women, Alcoholism, & Addictive Behaviors
Although the research does not pinpoint exactly why women are closing the gap on drinking and alcoholism, many theories have developed. George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism noted, “It’s presumably caused by all the factors associated with women having a different culture than they did 100 years ago.” Women are now a large part of the workforce, compared to even the 50s and 60s. They are more likely to drink socially during work events and business dinners. Furthermore, with heavier workloads comes the likelihood of stress, which in turn creates an acceptable cue to crack open a bottle wine or drink a cocktail after work. Couple this with motherhood, family obligations, and personal ambitions and you have yourself the new generation of the “heavy drinker.”
Additionally, women and men differ in many ways regarding both psychology and physiology. Women report suffering with either depression or anxiety twice as much as men, both mental health diagnoses that are strongly correlated to substance abuse and alcoholism. Many times, women will use alcohol or other substances to “self-medicate” underlying issues such as these disorders. As for physiology, women do not break down alcohol the same as men. Due to their lower body mass, as well as less water within their bodies, women feel the effects of alcohol more quickly than do men. This is also explains why women are more susceptible to alcoholic hepatitis, breast cancer, and heart problems.
Besides alcoholism, women are also at risk for other addictive issues, such as eating disorders and food addiction. Ashley Gearhardt, the lead developer of the Yale Food Addiction Scale said in regards to why women are more apt for addiction problems, “so many pressures in their lives” – “pressures in the workplace, pressures regarding child care.” A 2016 study to test the Yale Scale revealed that “gender was significantly associated with addictive-like eating symptoms with women, on average, reporting a higher number of symptoms than men.”
Problem Drinking vs. Alcoholism
No matter the causes or attempting to pinpoint stressors, the reality is, women are increasingly at risk for negative drinking behaviors, alcoholism, and other addictive disorders. Nevertheless, alcoholism is not a black or white issue, nor is diagnosing the severity of a drinking problem. When the American Psychiatric Association updated the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) in 2013, it changed the way we view and diagnose addictive disorders. Rather than being broken into two categories, abuse and dependence, the updated DSM-V categorizes substance use disorders based upon symptomology and severity.
Now, the manual says if at least 2 of the 11 symptoms are present, the individual suffers from an alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder. Six or more symptoms indicate a higher severity of the disorder. For some, this may seem confusing. Nevertheless, what it has done is given providers, counselors, and physicians the ability to possibly diagnose the disorder before it crosses the line from problem drinking to alcoholism. A person can now seek out the necessary help of a professional, before the natural progression of the disease sets in.
Contact Clearbrook Today
At Clearbrook, we understand the cunning and baffling nature of alcoholism. We also realize that each person that comes to us has their own set of circumstances. That is why we have customized treatment programming to address the needs of each patient, including therapeutic groups designed to treat gender-specific issues.
If you or a loved one is suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction, please allow us to help. For more than 40 years, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been providing quality and effective treatment for the chemically dependent person. By utilizing the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous in our treatment programs, we can provide you with the necessary tools for lasting sobriety. If you are ready to change your life, please contact our Admissions Specialists today. They are available 24 hours a day to assist you in the admissions process.