Young Women Are Now Drinking Almost As Much As Men

Photographed by Alice Gao.
When we think of problematic drinking habits, we often think of binge-drinking frat boys or the stereotypically hardened dude drowning his sorrows at the bar — a.k.a. men. And in the past, guys have definitely been shown to drink more, on average, than women. But, according to new research, younger women are catching up to men in this respect — and that's not a good thing.

For the study, published online today in the journal BMJ Open, researchers analyzed 68 previous studies of drinking habits among men and women around the world. The studies included data that had been collected between 1948 and 2014, giving the researchers a gigantic sample size of 4,426,673 people who were born between 1891 and 2000.

Results showed that, for most of the past 100 years, men really have tended to drink more than women. But, over the past several decades — among those born after 1976, in particular — the differences in men's and women's drinking habits have become much smaller. And that's almost totally due to the fact that younger generations of women are drinking more alcohol — not that men are drinking less.

These results seem to go against other recent findings that suggested most millennials (including three quarters of millennial women) are more open to the idea of moderate drinking than previous generations. Perhaps as much as we want to drink moderately, we're not quite following through on those aspirations.

The bigger picture here, though, is that this research shows that our old ideas about drinking and alcoholism — that these are "men's issues" — aren't going to fly for current generations: "Alcohol use and alcohol use disorders have historically been viewed as a male phenomenon," the study authors write. "The present study calls this assumption into question and suggests that young women in particular should be the target of concerted efforts to reduce the impact of substance use and related harms."

While we won't suggest skipping happy hour over this (hell no), it is worth noting, once again, that binge drinking — defined as drinking four or more drinks in the span of a few hours — is never a great idea. According to the CDC, excessive drinking can increase your risk for injuries, alcohol poisoning, and blackouts (which are scary and also bad for your brain) in the short-term, and liver and heart disease in the long-term. In other words, this is one glass ceiling that's better left uncracked.

Advertisement
Advertisement