More American women dependent on alcohol: study
Los Angeles, May 10: Alcohol dependence has increased substantially among American women, particularly white and Hispanic women born since 1945, a new study shows.
Alcohol use and dependence appear to have remained stable for men, while young Americans report having more lifetime alcohol problems than older Americans, despite having had less time to develop issues with drinking, according to the study published in the May issue of “Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research”.
“We found that for women born after World War II, there are lower levels of abstaining from alcohol, and higher levels of alcohol dependence, even when looking only at women who drank,” the study’s corresponding author, Richard A. Grucza, an epidemiologist at the Washington University School of Medicine, said in a statement.
“However, we didn’t see any significant tendency for more recently born men to have lower levels of abstention or higher levels of alcohol dependence.”
The researchers’ findings were based on an analysis of two national surveys conducted 10 years apart (1991-92 and 2001-02), comparing lifetime alcohol-use rates from the same age groups and demographics.
The “closing gender-gap in alcoholism” may be due to higher levels of problems facing women, while men have been more or less steady in their levels of dependence, Grucza said.
“Clearly, there were many changes in the cultural environment for women born in the 40s, 50s and 60s compared to women born earlier,” Grucza said.
“Women entered the work force, were more likely to go to college, were less hampered by gender stereotypes, and had more purchasing power. They were freer to engage in a range of behaviours that were culturally or practically off-limits, and these behaviours probably would have included excessive drinking and alcohol problems.”
One possible explanation for this could be that between 1934 and 1964, the social acceptability of women’s drinking increased. As it was more socially acceptable for women to drink, a greater number of them became drinkers, the study suggests.
Another potential factor it puts forward is that immigrants arriving in America from cultures with more conservative values about drinking tend to abide by their native cultural norms, but their children are more likely to follow comparatively lax US norms regarding alcohol.
“We can think of US culture as having been traditionally dominated by white men,” added Grucza. “As women have immigrated into this culture, they have become acculturated with regard to alcohol use.”