Women Continue to Close Gap with Men on Alcoholism
> 5/6/2008 11:41:30 AM

Asking a question in a different way can often result in a new or surprising answer. Such is the case with a recently published study into female alcohol dependence. Interested in guaging what, if any, change had occured in prevalence of alcohol dependence in women of different generations, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis compared survey data from 1991-1992 to data from ten years later. These two data sets allowed researchers to negate the reporting differences often seen when different generations are surveyed at the same time.

When they broke the numbers down, the Washington University team found that the women surveyed in 2001-2002 (those born between 1944-1953) were 20 percent more likely to be current drinkers, and that among those who drank, the group was 50 percent more likely to be alcohol dependent than drinkers from the previous generation. Speaking to Science Daily, lead researcher Dr. Richard Grucza explained:

"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," said Grucza. "However, we didn't see any significant tendency for more recently born men to have lower levels of abstention, or higher levels of alcohol dependence." He added that these results shed more light on a "closing gender-gap in alcoholism," showing that it is probably due to higher levels of problems among women, while men have been more or less steady in their levels of dependence.

The closing of this gender gap in alcohol dependence has many implications. One of the most important, which the researchers mention specifically, is the need for greater understanding about this growing demographic group of problem drinkers. Doctors and therapists cannot assume that the same mechanisms that lead to male drinking are at play in female drinking. Indeed, future efforts should focus on developing treatments and prevention strategies that address women with alcohol dependence or at risk of developing alcohol dependence. It's unlikely that we'll see any future drop-off in alcoholism among women, but we can hope, and takes steps to assure that, the numbers level off before reaching equality with males.

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