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Most of the western world is seeing an increase in alcohol abuse – in many different countries, female drinkers are the ones responsible for driving this growth. This is not a problem limited to the United States. It is happening globally. The gap between male and female consumption becomes exponentially smaller as a country becomes more affluent.
One of the leading factors appears to be the ‘normalization’ of alcohol consumption amongst women. Many women treat a glass of wine the same way they would a piece of dark chocolate – an indulgent treat that is ultimately not that bad for you, even if you have a little too much. However, the statistics suggest that more and more women are having a hard time limiting themselves.
Liquor Industry Targeting Women
The truth is that the alcohol industry is aware that the male market can only give them so much income, which leads to them focusing some of their attention on women. With names such as Girls’ Night Out and Mommy’s Time Out, it is clear that this is not only directly targeting women, but is trying to make drinking more acceptable and mainstream as well. Gone are the strong liquors that burn as they go down, but the mango mixers and berry-flavored vodkas are quickly turning up at liquor stores everywhere.
More Women Binge Drink than Ever Before
When it comes to drinking, it is obvious that women are not far behind their male counterparts anymore. According to the latest statistics from the CDC, almost 14 million women throughout the nation binge drink upwards of three times every month. The CDC defines binge drinking for women as consuming more than four drinks in a single period. Despite the fact that four indicates a problem/health hazard, most of the women that the CDC surveyed admitted to drinking far more – oftentimes more than six drinks. Binge drinking is problematic because it puts women at a greater risk for health issues such as liver disease, alcohol poisoning, stroke and accidental injuries.
Female Body has Hard Time Processing Alcohol
Despite the fact that the feminist movement made great strides when it comes to equality, researchers have found that women are not physically capable of handling drinking as well as men are. This is not an attempt to make a chauvinist statement. It merely states that there is an identified (yet unexplained) factor that causes a woman’s body to be unable to deal with alcohol as well as the male body.
One of the primary factors may be the fact that the dominant female hormone – estrogen – interacts with alcoholic beverages in a way that leads to problems. Researchers also believe that the differing stomach enzymes play an important role.
One final issue is that women’s bodies have less water per pound of bodyweight than men do. This means that there is simply less water to distribute the drinks, leading to a far higher blood alcohol level in women. Even if the woman is similar height, weight, age as a man and both parties drank the same amount. Water will dilute the particles, and women do not have as much water available to do this.
Women May Develop Problems More Easily
Because their bodies do not process the consumed spirits the same way, it puts women at a far greater risk for developing related issues later on. This may be general risks or specific health problems. For example, for women the risks include increased chances of liver disease, heart disease, alcohol addiction and breast cancer. When both sexes drink the same, women appear to be more likely to develop problems with dependence than men.
One of the few positives is that when it comes to issues of dependence, women are far more likely to seek professional help than men are. Over the long haul, women are likely to ask for help four to five years earlier than their male counterparts. Despite the fact that drinking has become socially acceptable for women, the reason behind seeking help far quicker is because men still have an inherent notion of having to deal with their problems themselves.
Older Women Drinking More than Ever
Despite the fact that most people were quick to point the finger at college-aged women, one of the largest and fastest growing groups in alcohol consumption is women in their 40s and 50s. This is especially problematic because as we age, we are not able to break down these alcohol particles as well anymore.
As a result, these women become more sensitive to the overall effects of drinking. Even if they continue to drink the same that they have for years, possibly decades, the changes in their body may lead to problems. Despite the fact that older women tend to drink less and are less likely to binge drink, even lowered consumption may still lead to problems.
For these women the shifting hormones may become an important factor. Drinking could trigger menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes or night sweats. It may also cause that person to go off her normal sleep schedule and may account for weight gain. Despite the fact that these are ‘normal’ problems during menopause, drinking more might make the issues far worse or speed up their development. It is also important to note that many healthcare providers will miss some of the problems we associate with excessive consumption and attribute them to ‘standard’ aging-related issues.
Education Regarding Future Problems
Katherine Keyes – an assistant professor at Columbia University – reviewed 31 different studies that focused on gender differences and alcohol consumption. Her conclusion is both straightforward and damning, despite the fact that more men still have problems with alcoholism, women are rapidly catching up.
It has become more acceptable than ever before to open a bottle of wine to ‘forget the stress of the day’. However, the truth is that while a single glass of red wine may have positive health benefits, drinking six glasses a day is always going to be a negative. Liquor companies are making drinks excessively sweet, but they still have a relatively high alcoholic content; this is done to target the booming female market.
Despite the fact that equality for both sexes is important, it should be our goal to lower the problems with alcoholism in men, not have the women catch up with them. As a result, it is more important than ever before to let women in their 30s know that despite the fact that alcohol might taste great, be socially acceptable and readily available, there is still such a thing as ‘moderation’.