A review of more than 30 published studies discovers surprising trends in alcohol research, among them the increasing risk for alcohol disorders among women.
Research findings are available online and will be published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
“The literature on alcohol consumption indicates that younger birth cohorts, especially women, are increasingly at risk for the development of alcohol use disorders,” said Katherine M. Keyes, Ph.D., first author of the study.
“Given that alcoholism among women is increasing, there is a need for specific public health prevention and intervention efforts.”
The study suggests the environment increases the risk for alcoholism.
Researchers discovered people born after World War II are more likely to binge drink and develop alcohol use disorders.For those born after the war, environmental factors include policies, laws, social norms, and availability.
Although heavy episodic drinking and development of alcoholism and/or binge drinking has increased in America, this has not been the experience in Australia and Western Europe.
The investigators note that the U.S. differs from Europe and Australia in that we have a fairly large number of people who do not drink at all, although over time, the number of non-drinkers in the U.S. is decreasing.
“The results on gender highlight the need for increasing research on the social etiology of alcohol use disorders,” noted Keyes.
“Traditionally, gender differences are explained by biological differences in the ability of the body to metabolize alcohol and other biological mechanisms. These results suggest that the magnitude of gender differences changes over time, highlighting an important role for societal factors.”
Investigators believe the review provides evidence that problem drinking among young women is increasing, an important finding for public health professionals.
Experts say that heavy drinking poses unique health and social risks for women. Because of differences in average body size, for example, a woman becomes more intoxicated than a man consuming the same quantity or alcohol.
Women who drink heavily also face a greater vulnerability to sexual violence and greater risks of chronic diseases.