Ever since the first National Women’s Day in February of 1909, this time of year has provided an opportunity to draw attention to women’s issues, concerns, and achievements. As we look forward to International Women’s Day on March 8, it makes sense to look at a growing phenomenon that has serious health implications for half of the human population. That phenomenon is binge drinking and alcoholism, and it’s on the rise among women. Let’s examine the issue of alcohol abuse for women—and what can be done to put control back into women’s hands.
Women’s Drinking Is On the Rise
Men have historically been heavier drinkers than women in this country, but that gap has narrowed significantly in recent years. Not only are more women becoming regular drinkers, but they’re binge drinking more, too. (The CDC defines binge drinking for women as having least 4 drinks within 2 hours.) Men used to lead the binge drinking race by a factor of 2 to 1, but not anymore. One study found that women are now drinking almost as much as men. Another study found that, between 2002 and 2013, women’s binge drinking rose by nearly 60 percent, and the portion of women with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) climbed by about 84 percent—one of the largest spikes of any subgroup.
Why Are Women Drinking More?
That question has yet to be studied in-depth. Still, some researchers have floated the possibility that women’s increasing participation in the workforce—and the accompanying stress—could be to blame.
But there may be more to it than just that. You may be familiar with “mommy wine culture,” in which mothers deal with the stress and anxiety of parenthood by drinking. According to Wine Market Council and Nielsen data, women now drink most of the wine in the U.S.—57 percent of it, to be exact. Some of that consumption happens during wine-fueled playdates, which can easily lead to binge drinking.
To be fair, this isn’t the first time mothers have turned to alcohol to deal with stress. But what’s changed is how glamorized women’s drinking has become in popular culture, to the point that it’s become a widely recognized cultural joke. Hollywood movies have banked on it, celebrities have promoted it, and t-shirts and even baby clothes have poked fun at it. Search for “Mama Needs Wine” on Etsy, and you’ll get 737 booze-touting products.
“It’s almost this feminist thing, like ‘F - - k your role’ — like it’s a little rebellious,” one single mother and former drinker told the New York Post. “But it’s a joke that’s not funny.”
It doesn’t help that the potential health benefits of wine are often trumpeted more loudly than the potential risks. We’re constantly reminded that wine contains substances that may reduce cancer risks, protect the heart, and promote greater longevity. But, as we pointed out in a recent blog post, that all may be a big myth. Between the social reinforcement and the pervasive idea that wine is good for you, it’s no wonder that moms choose to ease their stress with a glass or two—or more.
Unfortunately, this boom in popularity has helped raise women’s drinking to the status of a public health crisis. Women have featured prominently in the spike in alcohol-related ER visits since 2006. Meanwhile, liver disease has jumped 18 percent among women aged 25 to 44, and 57 percent for women 45 to 64.
Why Alcohol Is Worse for Women Than for Men
Drinking a lot isn’t good for anyone, but it’s an especially unhealthy habit for women. Here’s why.
Women get drunker, faster. Women get hit by a double-whammy where alcohol is concerned. A woman’s body typically contains more body fat and less water than a man’s body. That slows alcohol’s dilution and prolongs that drunk or “buzzed” feeling. Women also have less dehydrogenase, the enzyme that breaks down alcohol in the stomach. These factors, combined with a tendency toward smaller body size, makes a woman more intoxicated than a man would be from the same amount of alcohol.
Women are at greater risk of developing alcohol-related diseases. But the intoxication issue is just the tip of the iceberg. Women drinkers face greater risks of multiple serious alcohol-related health problems than men who drink. Excessive drinking is more likely to cause heart damage and brain shrinkage in women, as well as liver cirrhosis. Drinking can lead to cancer no matter which sex you are, but women face a higher risk of breast cancer—and the more they drink, the higher that risk rises.
Alcohol is a serious risk during pregnancy. Women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant should be especially concerned about the health problems posed by alcohol consumption. The alcohol you take in passes to your developing fetus, potentially causing low birth weight, intellectual disability, physical coordination problems, or hyperactivity. Alcohol can also produce hormonal imbalances, infertility, and a higher risk of spontaneous abortion.
Alcohol is a risk factor for sexual assault. The very real issue of sexual assault can’t be ignored in a culture that applauds drinking, especially in party environments where both the attacker and the person being attacked have been drinking. Alcohol-induced blackouts make women even more vulnerable to assault, while the relaxing of inhibitions may encourage critical errors in judgement. An estimated 50 percent of sexual assaults—including rape—involve alcohol by the perpetrator, victim, or both.
Controlling Consumption the Easy, Sensible Way
Most drinkers aren’t alcoholics. And while some women may benefit from eliminating alcohol completely, others simply need to get a stronger handle on their drinking behaviors in order to feel in control of their lives again.
Whichever path you choose to pursue, Ria Health can make the journey much easier. Our combination of FDA-approved medications and state-of-the-art telemedicine techniques can show you how to drink less wine or other alcoholic beverages without locking yourself up in rehab or jumping through the hoops of a self-help program. You may want to quit drinking altogether, or just drink less than usual. Either way, Ria Health’s program enables you to manage your alcohol consumption in the privacy of your own home.
Live Your Life On Your Own Terms
Life is challenging enough without throwing the serious complications and downsides of alcohol dependence into the mix. If you’re ready to enjoy your life to the fullest, find out how Ria Health can help you take control.