The number of women dying from alcoholism in the UK has doubled since the 1980s, according to data from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health. Over the same period, there has been a slight decline in the number of men dying from alcohol abuse. It is mostly women under the age of 34 who are responsible for this rapid increase.
Women are drinking a lot more than they ever did in the past. It used to be men that had the reputation for binge drinking, but women are quickly catching up by engaging in this behaviour in increasing numbers. Females would be considered binge drinkers if they consume more than six units of alcohol in the one session; many females will actually drink considerably more than this during a night out.
A number of explanations abound as to why more women are dying from alcoholism, including:
- Up until the eighties there was still a stigma attached to inebriated women. Social pressures meant that many females did not drink and those that did tended to do so in moderation. Getting drunk was seen as more a part of the ‘lad’s culture’, but society has changed. It is now usual to see as many women drunk on the streets of the cities after midnight as it is males. There is an expectation that females have as much right as males to go out and ‘have a good time’.
- There has been a rapid increase in the number of drinking advertisements aimed specifically at women. The promoters of these products have also gone out of their way to make drinking appear more glamorous and exciting. There has also been a rise in the number of beverages that are aimed at the female market for example, alcopops). It would be wrong to put all the blame on the drinks industry for the rise in the number of women dying from alcoholism, but they have certainly played their part.
- It is now more common to see females binge drinking in movies and TV shows. This has also played a role in normalising this type of behaviour in society. Of course, the makers of these media types will insist that they are just reflecting what is happening in society; the truth is that reality and the media feed into each other.
- More women work these days than at any other time in history, which increases the likelihood of them drinking for a number of reasons. There can be the sense of entitlement, the old ‘work hard, play hard’ idea. It can also happen that in some types of employment females engage in there will be an expectation that employees drink alcohol as part of their job, for example, entertaining clients. The fact that so many women are working also means that more of them have disposable income.
We’ve already seen a doubling of the number of women dying from alcoholism, and this number is likely to keep on rising. More females are now binge drinking than ever before, with this trend showing no signs of abating.
Engaging in binge drinking increases the risk of developing alcoholism, and it also leads to chronic health problems such as cirrhosis of the liver. There are also thousands of deaths each year attributed to this pattern of drinking because it can easily lead to, among other things, alcohol poisoning. Women can also die indirectly from alcohol because it interferes with their ability to make good decisions, increasing the likelihood of ending up in high-risk situations.