The gap between how much men drink and how much women drink is narrowing. And while that may be a theoretical plus for gender inequality, it also indicates that women could now suffer from more alcohol-related health risks.
In a study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research and reported in Tech Times, researchers found that although men still drink more than women do, the difference in drinking between the two genders is becoming less and less significant each year.
The scientists used data gathered from 70,000 people in the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2002 and 2012. During that period, the percentage of women reporting that they drank alcohol climbed from almost 45 percent to 48.3 percent. In that same time period, the number of men who drank alcohol fell from 57.4 percent to 56.1.
The study's lead author, Dr. Aaron White, who is the senior scientific adviser to the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said, "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."
Women are drinking more days per month—now 7.3 days, from 6.8 a few years ago—and men are drinking fewer days per month—now 9.5 days down from 9.9.
And women were also found to be binge drinking more. The percentage of women aged 18 to 25 not in college who reported binge-drinking increased significantly, from 29.1 percent to 32.6 percent. Men, believe it or not, are binge drinking less: the same demographic on the male side fell from 49.8 percent to 45.4 percent. The researchers define binge drinking as consuming five or more drinks during a single occasion.
No one was surprised by these results: "This study confirms what other recent reports have suggested about changing patterns of alcohol use by men and women in the US," says George F. Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
OK, so a closing gender gap might seem like a good thing. But it's not.
The worst part about this finding is that women face greater risks of all kinds of drinking-related health problems than men do. We're talking about cardiovascular disease, cancer, liver inflammation, and neurotoxicity, according to Koob.
So, why are women drinking more these days? No one really knows. The researchers said that the trend does not seem to be linked to other trends in employment, marital status, or pregnancy.
But brewing beer, at least, has always been a woman's game anyway.