Men still outpace women when it comes to drinking, but women are closing the gap. If the drinking is moderate and reasonable, there is no problem. Unfortunately, along with the overall increase in alcohol consumption for women, we see an increase in those who drink too much. Women are affected differently by alcohol than men are. Women drink for different reasons, too. And while men have always been drinkers, this is a new cultural phenomenon for women. What is behind it and what can you do to prevent the health risks from drinking to excess?
From Occasional Glass of Wine to Daily Booze
The trend in women drinking more can partly be explained by changing social and cultural status. Women have gained greater equality with men in the workplace and other arenas over the last several decades. Along with it comes an equalization of social norms, like drinking. A working mother comes home at the end of the day. She has to make dinner, drive kids to activities, help them with their homework and do a million other things. Once the kids are in bed, she needs to relax, and a glass of wine helps. Soon it becomes a habit and then a real problem. This is not an uncommon scenario.
The facts about women and drinking don’t lie. More women are being charged with drinking and driving. They are ending up in emergency rooms more often for alcohol-related accidents. The number of young, college-aged women overdosing on alcohol has jumped 50 percent in a decade. A 2010 poll found that two-thirds of women in the U.S. not only drink, but drink regularly.
What’s Behind the Drinking?
The facts are clear, but the question remains: Is the growing equality between men and women the only answer? Some experts claim that the culture of drinking in college, in which young women are fully participating, perpetuates a lifelong habit. Drinking is associated with down time and with relaxing after working hard. Instead of engaging in more healthful activities to relax, young people get drunk. This idea melds with the statistics showing that among older women, the more educated they are, the more likely they are to be problem drinkers.
Also possibly to blame is the “do it all” mentality that many educated, working mothers have. Many women today want to raise children and have a successful career, but the demands are great. Drinking has become a way to cope with the stress and pressure for many women. Drinking is also a way for women to numb unwanted feelings: guilt about not being there enough for the kids or disappointment at making sacrifices at work to be a mother, for instance.
Manage Your Drinking
First, it is important to understand what moderate drinking means. For women it is one drink per day or less. One drink is a shot of liquor, a five-ounce glass of wine or a 12-ounce beer. Stick to drinking at these moderate levels and no more. An occasional drink to relax at the end of the day is not problematic for most people, but be aware of emotional drinking. If you find yourself picking up a glass of wine when you feel sad, guilty or depressed, think again. Turn to other activities instead, such as talking with a friend, reading a book with a cup of tea or exercising. These are much healthier ways to cope. Alcohol cannot solve your problems.