The archetype of a village drunk is typically a pot-bellied fifty- or sixtysomething man with a graying beard and a dented hat, slurring over his umpteenth beer or whiskey-rocks at the local dive, perhaps with a near-identical, also-male pal at the adjacent barstool. He seeks to commiserate over his unnamed troubles—likely something along the lines of "(sigh)… Women."
But maybe, in 2015, that image should be reversed. Because with each passing year, more and more women are getting down with some good old-fashioned binge-drinking.
A new study by the University of Washington's Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation that was published last week in the American Journal of Public Health reports that between 2007 and 2012, heavy drinking increased by 17.2 percent for Americans as a whole. The data was collected from 3.7 million Americans, so we're not talking about a small sample size. And sure—that number is alarmingly high, and certainly thought-provoking. But on a county-by-county basis, it looks like the surge in getting sloppy was due, in large part, to heavier drinking habits by women in many areas—a 17.5 percent increase nationwide. Over the course of the past almost-ten years, the frequency of binge drinking for women increased at a rate sevenfold that of men.
Researchers quantified binge-drinking as four drinks in a single session for women, and five for men, meaning that drink-for-drink, women made the cut slightly more easily than their male counterparts. But the authors of the study were still alarmed by the numbers. "It seems like women are trying to catch up to the men in binge drinking," study lead Ali Mokdad told Kaiser Health News.
Regionally, there could be an assortment of reasons for the boozy fever. For example, one of the most notable geographical examples was in Santa Clara County, CA, about 30 miles south of San Francisco, where binge drinking for women skyrocketed by 36 percent in a span of less than ten years. But Santa Clara is the heart of Silicon Valley, meaning that tons of young people with expendable income have flocked to the county in recent years, creating a different demographic and more lively bar scene.
Many regions have also seen more relaxed alcohol control policies, with beer, wine, and liquor being sold in more outlets, on more days of the week, and at later times. There's also the increased cultural interest in mixology and cocktails.
Regardless of the reasons, this may represent a more leveled playing field in the bar world or a concerning trend toward women poisoning themselves more and more for fun.
But next time you warn a lady-friend that you can drink her under the table, you might not know what you're in for.