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Women catching up with men in alcohol consumption

Women are catching up with men in terms of alcohol consumption, researchers say
women and alcohol

Historically, men have been far more likely than women to drink alcohol, and in quantities that damage their health, but new evidence suggests this gap is narrowing.

Known as sex convergence, the trend is most evident among young adults, the researchers said.

They pooled the data from 68 international studies, involving four million people, and found that men born between 1891 and 1910 were twice as likely as women to consume alcohol.

But this had almost reached parity for men born between 1991 and 2000, who were 1.1 times more likely to drink alcohol as females.

Continually narrowing

When alcohol use was grouped into three categories any use, problematic use, and the prevalence of associated harms the gap between the sexes

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Historically, men have been far more likely than women to drink alcohol, and in quantities that damage their health, but new evidence suggests this gap is narrowing. 


Women now have a far greater level of alcohol consumption than in
the twentieth century. Picture: iStock

Known as ‘sex convergence’, the trend is most evident among young adults, the researchers said. 

They pooled the data from 68 international studies, involving four million people, and found that men born between 1891 and 1910 were twice as likely as women to consume alcohol.

But this had almost reached parity for men born between 1991 and 2000, who were 1.1 times more likely to drink alcohol as females. 

Continually narrowing

When alcohol use was grouped into three categories – any use, problematic use, and the prevalence of associated harms – the gap between the sexes consistently narrowed in all three areas. 

Among the 42 studies that reported some evidence for sex convergence, most indicated that this was driven by greater use of alcohol among women. The researchers said that as 5% of the sex ratios were less than one, this suggests women born after 1981 may actually be drinking more than their male peers. 

‘Alcohol use and alcohol use disorders have historically been viewed as a male phenomenon,’ the study authors said. ‘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.’ 


Slade T et al (2016) Birth cohort trends in the global epidemiology of alcohol use and alcohol-related harms in men and women: systematic review and metaregression. BMJ Open. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-011827

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