Alcohol-related issues have (for a long time) been considered more common in men. Past studies have shown that men drink more and are more likely to suffer alcohol-related diseases. For example, a 2019 Government study showed that 37% of men aged between 45-64 exceeded weekly drinking limits compared to 19% of women. What’s more, a 2020 study discovered that the rate of alcohol-specific deaths forA males in 2020 remained more than double the rate for females.
But here’s the worrying aspect. Studies also indicate the ever-increasing consumption of alcohol by women. Over the past hundred years, women have continued to increase their alcohol consumption until, in 2018, female drinking levels had hit a comparable level to men’s.
Why aren’t we seeing this reflected in the 2020 stats regarding alcohol-related deaths? The simple answer is that liver disease takes up to ten years to develop. The truth is, although men’s deaths currently exceed the female death rate for alcohol-related illness, both are on the rise, up by 20% in 2020 from 20219. If women don’t address their drinking habits now, deaths could be on a par with male statistics within the next 5-10 years.
Why are more women turning to alcohol?
Several reasons point to why female drinking levels are rising.
To unwind from stress and the busy-ness of life
Over the past century, women have campaigned and fought for equality in the home and workplace. However, one of the difficulties accompanying these changes is the stress of juggling a career and family life.
Despite changes, women are still viewed as the main child-carer – sometimes by necessity, sometimes by choice. It’s relatively rare to see a stay-at-home dad, although I accept these views are changing year on year.
Alcohol is a temporary relaxant, and women drink to wind down after a busy day. Drinks after work or during work lunches, wine with friends at the weekend, or a drink after the kids have gone to bed – more and more women are self-medicating their stress and anxiety through alcohol.
Modern-day culture encourages drinking
Wherever you turn in today’s society, you see advertising or cultural pressure to drink. From “Mummy Wine Culture” to” Bottomless Prosecco Brunches”, women are faced with an avalanche of alcohol-related activities to help them fit in with what society would consider the norm.
Advertising encourages women to drink. Phrases like “skinny cocktails”, “Mummy Juice”, and “Pink drinks” together with the new ranges of female-targeted drinks like “Chick Beer” make women feel it’s acceptable to indulge in alcohol. Alcoholic brands have consciously created female-focused marketing, targetting the messaging of empowerment and freedom. No wonder more and more women feel pressured to drink.
Bereavement, retirement, and loneliness
Research has shown that women aged 50-70 are more likely than younger women to consume alcohol at levels that exceed low-risk drinking guidelines. The reasons for this are varied. As we age, our bodies change. Hormonal changes lead to a dip in mood and increased anxiety levels, leading women to self-medicate with alcohol.
Losing a partner and loneliness also contributes to a rise in drinking habits. Alcohol acts as a short-term anaesthetic for grief, but it’s difficult to break the cycle of grieving, drinking for relief, and grieving again once the effects of alcohol wear off. It’s a vicious merry-go-round.
Retirement leaves some women feeling unwanted, thrown on the scrap heap at the end of their working life. Without structure or activities to keep you busy, it becomes all too easy to slip into habitual drinking routines.
The dangers of alcohol for women outweigh those for men
Let’s get one thing straight – alcohol is a killer for both men and women. It’s a dangerous drug that causes untold damage to all who choose to drink.
However, women’s bodies are far less tolerant to the effects of alcohol, and women are more likely to suffer alcohol-related illness and disease after a shorter time.
Alcohol affects women in the following ways –
- Women produce smaller quantities of an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which is released in the liver to break down alcohol in the body.
- Women are more likely to develop alcoholic hepatitis of the liver faster than men.
- Women are more susceptible to heart disease
- Higher risk of breast cancer
- Produces brain damage more quickly in women than in men
The damage alcohol causes by far outweighs any short-term relaxation or de-stressing benefits. Alcohol is a deadly poison that society needs to stop glamourising.
Don’t be another statistic. Get the support you need to break free from alcohol.
Alcohol isn’t easy to walk away from once it has you in its clutches. It’s difficult to admit you have a problem, especially if your friends and family drink at the same levels. But if you’re questioning your drinking levels, you’re in the “grey area” and need to make changes.
By visiting my blog page, you can find information and support about quitting drinking, including dealing with stress without turning to alcohol and managing relationships when sober.
But the best way to break free from alcohol is to find yourself a support network. A group of people who get what you’re going through and are also getting and staying sober. I belong to a members-only FB group called ‘The Fish Followers Society’, which is the creation of Sober Fish (Dawn Comolly). I co-facilitate regular sober challenges, and they’re ideal for anyone looking for long-term sobriety. The challenges have recently been updated to incorporate the Alcohol Explained online course and an opportunity to have an exclusive Q&A with William Porter.
The group’s a friendly bunch who embrace everything about getting sober, the good, the bad, and the ugly. The interaction between members is genuine and 100% supportive. If this sounds like your kind of small, informal sober tribe, check out the details here.
Or, if you’d rather some 1:1 advice, chat with me. Why not book a free call with me and chat through your next steps with someone who gets you.
Your life is too precious to end up as another statistic. Instead, commit to change and start your journey towards a healthier, happier lifestyle.