Binge drinking among women has doubled in just over a decade, according to new research.
More than 42 per cent of childless 30 to 44-year-old women admitted to binge drinking last year – compared to a fifth in 2006.
The study by the Columbia University was intended to look into theories surrounding the prevalence of ‘mommy drinking’ but found claims it was the group to see the biggest rise were not supported by evidence.
Instead the study found a rise in binge drinking among all groups of the 240,000 Americans who participated – except from young fathers, 18 to 29, who are drinking less.
Ms McKetta, a PhD student in public health, said: ‘The largest increases in binge drinking were reported among women aged 30 to 44 without children – from 21 percent in 2006 to 42 percent in 2018.’
More than 42 per cent of childless 30 to 44-year-old women admitted to binge drinking last year – compared to a fifth in 2006
Mothers and fathers were least prone – with childless men having the highest levels overall.
Men and women are continuing to increase binge drinking, regardless of parenting status.
Lead author Sarah McKetta, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, New York, said: ‘Although heavy drinking has either decreased or stabilised for most groups, binge drinking is still common and is becoming even more prevalent.
‘It’s still unknown why women are increasing drinking relative to men, but we encourage physicians to screen all adults – not just select groups of men and women – for alcohol use disorders and referring them to appropriate treatment.’
Ms McKetta added: ‘Binge drinking has risen for women across all adult ages and parenting statuses.’
Her team were interested in the phenomenon of ‘mommy drinking,’ and whether women who were parents were in fact showing different or increased drinking behaviour.
Ms McKetta said: ‘Mommy drinking is on the upswing – but women without children still drink more.’
The researchers studied binge drinking and heavy drinking among 239,944 adults aged 18 to 55 from the annual National Health Interview Survey [NHIS) for the years 2006 to 2018.
They then tested whether there were increasing, decreasing, or mostly unchanged trends among men and women depending on parental status and age.
Binge drinking has risen for women across all adult ages and parenting statuses
Results were based on responses to questions about past-year alcohol use. Heavy alcohol use is defined as binge drinking at least five times in the last 30 days.
Binge drinking is measured as any occasion of having more than five drinks during the past two weeks.
Despite widespread increases in binge drinking, heavy drinking declined or remained stable for all groups with the exception of childless middle aged women between 45 and 55.
But, overall, the prevalence of heavy drinking among women was indistinguishable over the 13 year period.
Alcohol abstention fell for all groups except for young fathers aged 18 to 29 – the same group that had reductions in binge drinking.
Senior author Professor Katherine Keyes, also of Columbia, said: ‘Our study demonstrated that trends in binge and heavy drinking over time were not differentiated by parenting status for women; rather, declines and increases over time were mainly attributable to sex and age.
‘We observed that men and women who parent drink less than those who do not, and men who parent drink more than women who parent.’
Between 2006 and 2010, excessive alcohol use led to 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost among US residents.
Researchers claim binge drinking could be because of a genetic fault that means some people need more to enjoy alcohol
Drinking is increasing among all US adults, particularly among women, regardless of parenting status, said the researchers.
Although, on average, women still drink less than men, women aged 20 to 40 have shown the most pronounced increases in consumption, driving the national trends among adults.
Ms McKetta said: ‘Mums are often subject to increased scrutiny regarding their own health, and how their decisions impact the health of their children.
‘We found that public concern over ‘mommy drinking’ is not supported by the data.’
Added Prof Keyes: ‘Targeting subgroups or perpetuating myths that are based on normative beliefs about women’s parenting roles are a distraction from the growing public health concerns of problematic alcohol use among men and women of all ages.’
Last year a global study of 28 million people across 195 countries found the UK is almost unique in having no difference in the amount of alcohol men and women consume.
A steady growth in wine drinking since the 1980s, and the marketing of ‘female-friendly’ drinks such as cocktails, had driven British women to eighth worst place in the global league tables.
The study, led by the University of Washington, showed on average they are now consuming three alcoholic drinks daily – exactly the same as men.
It linked alcohol to almost 3 million deaths globally. The research found it was the seventh leading risk factor for premature death and disease – and the leading cause of death before the age of 50.
Researchers said the analysis found no safe level of alcoholic consumption, suggesting that going teetotal was the only way to avoid associated health risks.
DO YOU DRINK TOO MUCH ALCOHOL? THE 10 QUESTIONS THAT REVEAL YOUR RISK
One screening tool used widely by medical professionals is the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Tests). Developed in collaboration with the World Health Organisation, the 10-question test is considered to be the gold standard in helping to determine if someone has alcohol abuse problems.
The test has been reproduced here with permission from the WHO.
To complete it, answer each question and note down the corresponding score.
0-7: You are within the sensible drinking range and have a low risk of alcohol-related problems.
Over 8: Indicate harmful or hazardous drinking.
8-15: Medium level of risk. Drinking at your current level puts you at risk of developing problems with your health and life in general, such as work and relationships. Consider cutting down (see below for tips).
16-19: Higher risk of complications from alcohol. Cutting back on your own may be difficult at this level, as you may be dependent, so you may need professional help from your GP and/or a counsellor.
20 and over: Possible dependence. Your drinking is already causing you problems, and you could very well be dependent. You should definitely consider stopping gradually or at least reduce your drinking. You should seek professional help to ascertain the level of your dependence and the safest way to withdraw from alcohol.
Severe dependence may need medically assisted withdrawal, or detox, in a hospital or a specialist clinic. This is due to the likelihood of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms in the first 48 hours needing specialist treatment.