Women are now boozing as much as men, according to a study by a group of researchers from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre of the University of New South Wales, Australia.
The study analysed 68 international data ever published since 1980 and compared drinking habits between men and women over a time period stretching from 1891 to 2014. They looked at the ratio of men drinking versus women drinking, zooming in on specific age groups.
And they concluded that in the past men drank themselves into stupor, while very few women indulged in alcohol mainly because then women were homemakers, who had no income of their own, and had no stress that came with being a breadwinner.
That changed dramatically with the shifting or elimination of boundaries previously imposed on women. This meant a number of changes in social habits and traditions, as more women across the globe attain high level of education, assumed the role of breadwinners, embraced the spirit of self-awareness, and assert greater access to their rights – which include deciding at which age to get married or have children.
And part of the change is women consuming more alcohol, a habit previously common with men. The study – by six academics and, which was this week published in the BMJ Open – found adult women or those in their late 20s until 40s to be the ones drinking as much as the men.
The study then warns that the increase in female drinking habits also increased health-related problems, and calls for campaigns targeted at educating women on the harmful effects of consuming too much alcohol.
“Alcohol use and alcohol use disorders have historically been viewed as a male phenomenon. The present study calls this assumption into question and suggests that young women in particular should be the target of concerted efforts to reduce the impact of substance use and related harms,” says the report.
The report is quite clear that the research did not test specific hypotheses for why the gap between drinking women and drinking men is closing. However, the report did propose speculative explanations.
“Changes over time in female gender role traditionality may be one explanation for the closing male–female gap,” it says. Factors looked at are that both women and men have tended to share similar traits. Both men and women who are active participants in the labour force showed higher education levels, the higher age of when people first get married compared to a previous lower age, and higher income distribution. Hence, the gender role traditionally ascribed to women has completely been scrapped.
But there is also another reason why women are drinking as much as men. The alcoholic breweries also realised the change in the gender role traditionally ascribed to women – so they have devised marketing campaigns to entice more women to booze. They have come up with sweater beer or ciders aimed at younger women and girls. Further, that booze aimed at women tends to be cheaper. The effects of that combination, the report notes is that in some parts of the world women are drinking more litres of booze than men.
In essence, the report notes that men born between 1891 and 1910 were twice as likely as their female peers to drink alcohol and more than three times as likely to be involved in problematic use or use leading to harm. Alas, this cannot be said for men and women born between 1991 and 2000 – both are boozing freely and equally.