May 7, 2008

Alcohol Dependency Increases For One Gender

Since World War II, alcohol consumption among American-born women has markedly increased, tightening the alcohol dependence gap between men and women.

A recent study, conducted by Dr. Richard A. Grucza of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, compared women born between 1944 and 1953 with those born between 1954 and 1963. It was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Grucza and his team analyzed two alcohol consumption surveys that were conducted 10 years apart in age-matched adults. The results were disturbing according to Grucza who revealed "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."  Those women born later were much more apt to drink, thus donning a higher risk for dependence.
A similar group of men, however, did not exhibit increased drinking or higher levels of dependence on alcohol.  In the journal, researchers wrote, "This is particularly disturbing because women with alcohol problems face more severe health-related consequences and possibly more years of life lost than their male counterparts."

According to Dr. Shelly F. Greenfield, of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Program at McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts, this research "adds important information to the accumulating evidence that the gender gap between women and men in the prevalence of alcohol dependence is narrowing."

The doctor noted the fact that drinking has become more tolerable for women as time has progressed, and claimed this may be a reason for such an upsurge in women drinkers. She coolly stated, "As it was socially more acceptable for women to drink, a greater number of them became drinkers. Because women have a heightened vulnerability to the effects of alcohol ... we may therefore see a concomitant rise in alcohol dependence among those who ever drank."

Grucza agrees with Greenfield's comments: "Clearly there were many changes in the cultural environment for women born in the 40s, 50s, and 60s compared to women born earlier. 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 behaviors that were culturally or practically off-limits, and these behaviors probably would have included excessive drinking and alcohol problems."


On the Net:

Washington University School of Medicine

Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research