The gender gap is closing. But not in the way you might think.
According to a new study published in the medical journal “Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research,” female drinking habits are starting to keep pace with those of men.
Men still drink more, but over the past decade, more women are reporting that they drink and, of those who consume alcohol, they are drinking more often than in previous years.
“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,” said Dr. AaronWhite, Ph.D., senior scientific advisor to the director of National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and lead study author said in a news release from NIH.
“Males still consume more alcohol, but the differences between men and women are diminishing.”
White’s team of researchers gathered data from the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2002 and 2012, involving around 70,000 people each year.
The good news in that binge drinking rates among 18 to 25 year olds in college did not change during the decade studied. But among the same cohort not in school, binge drinking increased among women and decreased in men—narrowing the binge drinking gender gap for younger drinkers.
The percentage of women who reported drinking alcohol in the past 30 days increased from 44.9 percent in 2002 to 48.3 percent in 2012, while the same figure for men dropped just over half a percentage point to 56.1 percent.
Women also reported drinking more days per month—from 6.8 days to 7.3 days during the past decade. Men reported drinking 9.5 days per month in 2012, down from 9.9 in 2002.
"This study confirms what other recent reports have suggested about changing patterns of alcohol use by men and women in the U.S.," says NIAAA director George F. Koob.
The new findings did not point to any one determining factor like trends in employment, pregnancy, or marital status, for the increased levels of drinking.
But the study authors conclude that women may be just as likely as men to suffer from alcohol-related issues including cardiovascular disease, cancer, liver inflammation and neurotoxicity if the trend continues.