For almost a century, women have gradually closed the gap in binge drinking, alcohol use disorder, and alcohol consumption between genders. Previously, the risky drinking behaviors ratio in males versus females was 3:1. Today, this ratio is almost 1:1 globally. But while men drink for pleasure, women do it to cope.
Currently leading a sober life in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Victoria Cooper thought her college drinking habits were healthy. That’s because she was having shots while attending parties like everyone else. Beers kept bowling, and Victoria could get more refills than her friends. In some cases, she would even miss classes to nurse hangovers. However, Victoria never thought she could develop a drinking problem.
According to Victoria, the only people needing free drug addiction help (AddictionResource provides details) were the older men brown-bagging alcohol in the parking lot. Thus, she thought her drinking habit was acceptable.
And this is the most common image that people have of people with alcohol disorders. Perhaps, that’s because it’s what pop culture echoes. Unfortunately, this was a misleading image more than a decade back when Victoria pursued her college education. Today, this image is even less representative.
According to a 2019 survey, women reported drinking and even getting drunk more than male friends in their teens and early 20s. And this is the latest data from the U.S.
Drinking Gap Almost Gone Between 12th Grade Girls and Boys
For decades now, the drinking gap between girls and boys in the 12th grade has narrowed. In 2019, the U.S had a higher percentage of females in this age group that reported drinking over the last month than males in the same category.
And this trend matches the increasing mental health issues among young females. Researchers note that this trend is worrying due to the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic that may amplify the patterns.
Apart from females drinking more than makes, alcohol is affecting their mental and physical health. Perhaps, this explains the increasing numbers of women seeking free drug rehab. Ideally, research has indicated that females suffer the effects of alcohol use faster than men, even with lower consumption levels. These consequences can include heart disease, liver disease, and cancer.
The most concerning issue for researchers is the increasing gender equality in alcohol consumption without treatment or recognition of alcohol use disorders. Thus, even when a woman drinks more, she is often unlikely to seek professional treatment or assistance.
In Victoria’s case, alcohol consumption eventually made her drop out of college. After that, she went back home, where she could take a shot or more of vodka every morning before going to work. This lady could also take two drinks at lunch while still doing her finance job.
Unfortunately, the disease pulled her back whenever she attempted to quit. Victoria was scared when she only went for two days without drinking after her first attempt. Thus, she was drinking to survive, not for pleasure. Perhaps, this confirms the alcoholism definition as a disease.
Drinking Alcohol to Cope
Despite the narrowing gap between males’ and females’ drinking habits, both genders have varied reasons for consuming alcohol. For individuals above 26 years, females’ alcohol consumption rate is increasing faster. However, young adults and teens show an overall decline in alcohol consumption. But this decline is slow for females.
Ideally, young females exceed males in alcohol consumption. A more significant percentage of ladies aged between 18 and 25 reported drinking in the past month than males in the same age bracket in 2018. And this was the first time in almost two decades that studies revealed such statistics.
While some people may think this is progress, it may signal more significant underlying issues. The genuine concern is that while fewer individuals might be drinking, many of them do so in their attempt to cope. And this is problematic.
Studies have shown that individuals who use alcohol to cope instead of pleasure are more vulnerable to alcohol use disorder. Thus, people drinking to cope are likely to seek free alcohol rehab down the road. Unfortunately, research indicates that women are likely to consume alcohol as a coping mechanism than men.
For instance, Victoria reported drinking alcohol in her teen years to beat social anxiety. But, her drinking pattern changed after somebody sexually assaulted her. At this time, Victoria started drinking to deal with her trauma. According to Victoria, if a person struggling with alcohol use disorder experiences trauma, getting out of the shame, abuse, and drinking cycle becomes hard.
Statistically, women are likely to endure sexual assault or childhood abuse more than men. Recent surveys have indicated that the rates of anxiety, depression, suicide, and eating disorders are increasing among young adults and teenage women. And this could be the reason why more women are turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism.
What’s more, isolation, trauma, and stress layers from the COVID-19 pandemic are making things worse.
The Rising Risks
Initially, researchers focused on alcohol use among men. Today, scientists focus on unequal alcohol damage to the body as females and males approach drinking habits’ parity.
Generally, women’s body water is low, compared to men with similar weight. Body water dissolves water, meaning even with the same drinks, a woman will have it in higher concentration in blood than a man. What’s more, females’ body tissues have more exposure to alcohol with every drink.
And this explains why more women are likely to seek free help for alcoholics than men after relatively fewer drinking years. Ideally, women are likely to fall sicker faster than men after using alcohol for fewer years.
What’s more, women are at a higher risk for liver disease, hangovers, and alcohol-induced cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, and blackouts. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of preventing and treating alcohol-related health problems.
As for Victoria, joining a 90-day treatment program altered her perception of who addiction affects. Ideally, this treatment made her realize that not older people drinking at the parking lot need free alcohol treatment. That’s because I met other women struggling with alcohol use disorders in their 20s. Luckily, she completed a treatment program and returned to college, where she finished her studies.