The differences in drinking habits between American men and women are shrinking, according to a decade’s worth of data (2002 to 2012) from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a division of the National Institutes of Health.
Put simply, men are drinking less, while women have started drinking more than they have in past decades — which is particularly concerning, as it suggests that women are increasingly at risk for alcoholism and related disorders.
“We found that over that period of time, differences in measures such as current drinking, number of drinking days per month, reaching criteria for an alcohol use disorder, and driving under the influence of alcohol in the past year, all narrowed for females and males,” said Dr. Aaron White, the institute’s senior scientific advisor. “Males still consume more alcohol, but the differences between men and women are diminishing.”
Between 2002 and 2012, researchers found that the percentage of women who drank alcohol in the last month rose from 44.9 percent to 48.3 percent, while the percentage of men fell from 57.4 percent to 56.1 percent. In the same data set, women were also observed increasing the average number of days per month during which they drank, from 6.8 days to 7.3 days. For men, that figure fell slightly, from 9.9 days to 9.5 days.
In particular, evidence of greater alcohol use by women is important to note because women are already at greater risk for alcohol related health effects, like liver inflammation, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, and cancer, according to the NIAAA.