The news is making headlines across the web, on major publications and during top-rated news broadcasts: Women are consuming more alcohol than ever before. As a direct result, the number of women contending with alcoholism and alcohol abuse is on the rise.
What the Data is Telling Us
Researchers have published mounting evidence that highlights a public health crisis that women are in the throes of.
- According to a 2017 study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the rate of female alcohol abuse and dependence in the United States increased 83.7% between 2002 and 2013.
- A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry stated that for women, high-risk drinking increased close to 60%, and alcohol use disorder increased nearly 84%.
- A recent study on emergency department visits showed that alcohol-related ER visits among women-especially women aged 25 to 34-have been rising.
Additionally, the data now shows that women are on pace to surpass men when it comes to alcohol abuse rates.
In total, this alarming and concerning data indicates historic increases in women’s alcohol consumption. While many factors attribute to this increase, one critical fact stands out for medical professionals: the misuse of alcohol has added significant health risks for women.
A Woman’s Biological Makeup Makes Her More Prone to Alcohol-Related Health Issues
Due to hormonal and metabolic reasons, alcohol affects a woman’s body differently than it does a man’s. In turn, studies have shown that women tend to suffer more physical health issues from alcohol than men.
- More body fat
On average, the female body has more body fat than a male body. Because body fat contains little water, the female body has less fluid to dilute alcohol, which increases blood alcohol concentrations. A higher amount of body fat can cause a woman to quickly experience a stronger intoxication level.
- Lower levels of alcohol dehydrogenase
Women have lower levels of alcohol dehydrogenase – an important metabolizing enzyme that aids in the break down and elimination of alcohol from the body. As a result, a significant amount of alcohol enters a woman’s bloodstream
- Shifting hormone levels
Research has directly linked alcohol to increasing estrogen levels. When estrogen levels rise, a woman can experience two negative effects:
1. Higher estrogen levels place more stress on the body.
2. Higher estrogen levels cause the intoxicating effects of alcohol to set in faster
- Shorter timeline from first drink to addiction
Research suggests that women become dependent and/or addicted to alcohol faster than men for biological reasons.
Furthermore, women who are heavy drinkers are five times more likely than men who are heavy drinkers to experience a fatal hemorrhagic stroke.
4 Factors Causing Women to Drink More
1. The Mounting Pressure to Maintain a Harmonious Work-Life Balance
Stress and anxiety are two of the main reasons women are drinking more than ever. As women continue to push professional boundaries and lead more prominent, diverse careers, they feel greater amounts of pressure to achieve success and continue the woman’s empowerment movement.
When a woman has a career and a family, the emotions and pressure reach new levels and can feel overwhelming and unbearable at times.
Women can begin to feel like they’re burning the candle at both ends and not hitting the mark in any area of their life. They start to think as if they’re constantly letting their family down and dropping the ball at work.
To escape from reality and calm the feelings of stress and anxiety, women are heavily relying on alcohol.
2. An Unaddressed Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorder
Undiagnosed mental health disorders are more prevalent than many understand. Dealing with excessive feelings of depression or anxiety can cause a woman to struggle with daily routine activities and search for alternative methods of coping with her symptomatology.
Without receiving the proper clinical care to deal with an undiagnosed mental health disorder, a female struggling to balance work pressures and excessive emotionality may turn to alcohol to unwind and relax after a long day. While this may seem harmless to some, the fact of the matter is that this type of behavior, typically referred to as self-medicating, is an early warning sign to an alcohol use disorder.
By ignoring the mental health issues they are experiencing, women compound the problem by drinking heavily and creating a co-occurring disorder consisting of mental health problems and substance addiction.
3. Increasing Societal Pressure
Societal pressure is abounding for both men and women when it comes to drinking socially. Even from woman to woman, there is pressure to drink at get-togethers, ‘girls’ night’, ‘wine night’ and so on.
However, as stated earlier, higher alcohol consumption delivers more health consequences and dependence issues for woman. So, while society highly encourages women to drink, men and women alike are quick to judge, ostracize and stigmatize women for their excessive use and drinking problems.
4. Women-Centric Alcohol Marketing
Advertisements produced by the alcohol industry have long since targeted the female persona.
- Through commercials that depict a highly successful woman who has it all but needs to take the edge off occasionally, the suggested solution is alcohol.
- Through marketing campaigns that portray a lively bar or party scene where men and women are seen throwing back shots together, the pushy propaganda tells women they can (and should) keep up with a man’s alcohol consumption.
- Through ads that showcase a beautiful woman who radiates confidence and sexuality, the underlying message is clear: alcohol is a major contributing factor to her looks and demeanor.
- Through new alcoholic products and brands that market daintier, fizzier, ‘skinnier’ drinks – products like single-serve cocktails, wine coolers, Skinnygirl beverages, Mommy Juice, etc. – there’s bound to be an alcoholic drink for every woman’s unique taste preference and lifestyle choices.
The Faith-Based Alcoholic Recovery Program that Caters to Women’s Needs at Covenant Hills
Unfortunately, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, women are less likely to seek alcoholism treatment. Additionally, women often seek generalized mental health therapy, rather than an all-encompassing addiction and mental health treatment program, which tends to result in weaker treatment outcomes.
At Covenant Hills, we believe that women can get the life-changing help they need through a gender-specific environment that’s led by an experienced, compassionate staff of women who both understand and relate to the issues that each of our female clients present.
Through our faith-based women’s dual diagnosis treatment center, we specialize in helping women who suffer from alcoholism, while also addressing any emotional or psychiatric issues that may be contributing to the addiction problem.
You can quit your addiction and lead a thriving life.
Prevention. Why Are More Women Than Ever Addicted to Alcohol? Accessed July 17, 2018. https://www.prevention.com/health/mental-health/a20806555/alcoholism-women-rising/.
JAMA Psychiatry. Prevalence of 12-Month Alcohol Use, High-Risk Drinking, and DSM-IV Alcohol Use Disorder in the United States, 2001-2002 to 2012-2013. Accessed July 17, 2018. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/article-abstract/2647079.
Wiley Online Library. Trends in Alcohol‐Related Emergency Department Visits in the United States: Results from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, 2006 to 2014. Accessed July 17, 2018. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/acer.13559.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol and Women. Accessed July 17, 2018. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa10.htm.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Gender and Use of Substance Abuse Treatment Services. Ac