Health Care

Closing the drinking gender gap, in a bad way

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New research shows women are now drinking nearly as much alcohol as men. Older studies showed as much as a 12-fold difference between men and women.

MedlinePlus Health, a product of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, summarized the findings from a study published Tuesday in a journal called BMJ Open.

To create a worldwide picture of drinking between men and women, researchers at the National Drug and Alcohol research Center at the University of New South Wales in Australia pooled data from more than 4 million people who were part of 68 international studies between 1980 and 2014. The sample included people born as far back as 1981.

The study found the rise in drinking amongst women also brought a rise in the number of women who experience health effects from excessive drinking.

What the research showed

▪ The gender gap for excessive drinking fell from 3 times higher for men to 1.2 times.

▪ The gender gap for harms associated with drinking fell from 3.6 times higher for men to 1.3 times.

▪ Men born between 1891 and 1910 were twice as likely as their female counterparts to drink.

▪ Men and women born between 1991 and 2000 were about equally likely to drink.

Tim Slade, the lead researcher of the study and an epidemiologist with the National Drug and Alcohol Research Center at the University of New South Wales in Australia, told MedlinePlus that drinking has likely become more socially acceptable for women as they’ve joined the workforce, obtained higher education and became more financially independent.

Other researchers said older statistics might have underestimated the number of women who drank, and how much they drank, because some hid drinking before it was socially acceptable. Some also pointed to pressures on women to be a professional in the workforce along with a housekeeper and mother as potential reasons for the increase.

Gabriella Dunn: 316-268-6400, @gabriella_dunn