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Why American Women Drink More

Clinically Reviewed By Dan Schimmel, LCSW, CAP
Updated On

In the 1800s, it wasn’t considered socially acceptable for a woman to drink like a man. It wasn’t “ladylike,” so most women abstained in public arenas. This fact doesn’t mean that women weren’t drinking to excess otherwise. It simply wasn’t a mainstream habit in America.

Take a look at the American culture today, however. Drinking among both sexes is approved of in nearly every corner of the country. By far, women are drinking more often and in greater amounts than ever before. Take an in-depth look at the world of women and alcohol. A changing world is creating binge drinkers and addiction every day.

why american women drink more

An Accepted Vice

When society unofficially approves of a habit, the psychological impact is significant. People want to feel accepted, especially women who are looking for validation of their behavior in several different social situations. It is common and almost required to drink in social scenarios, such as:

  • Attending a party
  • Heading out to lunch or dinner with friends

American culture advertises a good time with alcohol consumption becoming the norm in almost every interaction. Alcohol used to be a male-dominated habit, but now women are becoming part of the drinking narrative.

Because society approves of drinking at almost any volume, noticing a dependence issue is that much more difficult. A woman might drink every day because the social situations dictate the practice. In reality, she may be dependent on the substance for both physical and psychological reasons.

The Influence of Media

Drinking isn’t just influenced by social groups. Women who are active on any virtual platform, including blogs and social media, are often met with funny memes or jokes about drinking or drunkenness. Many of these short videos or images approve of the drunken state, which is depicted by exaggerated situations, from waking up in a stranger’s house to substantial memory loss.

To the layperson, these images may not seem like a significant factor. However, women seeing these images on a regular basis are internalizing them. The images tell women that it’s perfectly acceptable to pass out while drinking or to participate in drinking games that lead to excess consumption.

The signs of alcoholism become even more difficult to pinpoint as the media portrays excessive drinking as normal. Adding in the influence of alcohol commercials solidifies the thinking in women’s minds. Everyone else is doing it, so why not join in?

Cashing in on a Drinking Culture

Walk through a home decor store today with kitchen accessories being sold. Women are being catered to in the form of drinking accessories around every corner. Wine glasses that used to be normal sizes are now exaggerated beyond belief. In fact, some glasses can fit an entire bottle of wine for your pleasure.

Alcohol producers are certainly cashing in on a culture where women and alcohol are intrinsically connected. Consider these other alcohol accessories that are largely marketed to the female audience, including:

  • Decorative name tags for glasses
  • Wine-tasting party kits complete with napkins and treat cups
  • Decanters with a home decor purpose

The wine scene is particularly marketed to females because of the social aspect. Women are more likely to invite friends over to their homes with alcohol as part of the fun.

Men, in contrast, often look for social situations outside of the home. Bars, tailgating, and barbecues tend to attract men more prominently than women.

Empowering Women With Freedom to Drink

Drinking alcohol wasn’t much of an issue even after prohibition in the 1920s. A dramatic increase in alcohol consumption actually occurred during the 1990s.

Statistics show that drinking increased by almost 50 percent across the entire population. Women were a large part of this increase. By this time period, women working in the workplace was commonplace; they were empowered with good jobs while balancing a family at home. They had the money and freedom to do as they pleased. As a result, drinking for social and coping purposes emerged. Consuming alcohol in large volumes became normal too. Because it wasn’t perceived as a problem, binge drinking slowly emerged among women. The habit continues today.

Teenage Perception Into the College Years

American women are drinking more because it’s normalized through the generations. Girls grow up in a household where both parents drink on a social level. There may be signs of alcoholism, but they aren’t addressed. Perception of the drinking is simply normal.

Those girls grow up into young women who are more likely to attend college than in previous generations. Although they may be underage, these young women experiment with alcohol in college. Binge drinking is often encouraged and a rite of passage for students on the weekend.

Studies have been released about the comparisons of college men versus women when it comes to binge drinking. It’s true that women are drinking more, especially because their limit level is much lower than men.

The teen years often set up a college student’s habits of either binge drinking or abstaining altogether with little middle ground. A young woman’s environment plays a major part in alcohol use disorder that develops later in life.

The Scientific Aspect of Drinking for Health

The scientific world defines a healthy amount of alcohol for each gender. Men can typically consume two drinks each day compared to women at one drink in a 24-hour period.

Committing to just one drink for women, however, isn’t the norm in society. Drinking several glasses of wine or consuming multiple shots in a given evening is common.

Women are more susceptible to drunkenness after more than one drink because of these factors, including:

  • Less weight to counteract the alcohol concentration
  • Lack of water volume in a woman’s body compared to men

If women would adhere to a healthy level of drinking, the risks would be minimal. However, asking a modern woman to stick to only one drink per day or less may have the same result as asking her to quit drinking.

Coping in a Stressful World

Another reason why American women are drinking more is stress. Women are often expected to fulfill their modern responsibilities at work while keeping a pristine household. This dual role produces a lot of stress in the woman’s world, including minorities. In fact, studies show that minority women are drinking more often compared to other demographics.

Stress may come from several outlets, including:

  • Lack of financial stability
  • Strain with a partner
  • Child-rearing difficulties

Many minority women lack education because they have children at young ages. Alcohol dependency isn’t seen as a problem; it becomes a solution at the day’s end. The signs of alcohol use disorder may be there, but drowning their stress is more important than realizing an issue is at play.

Mature Women

Mature women who continue to drink alcohol in large volumes will experience more health problems as a result. These women may be approaching retirement age, but their stress levels and years-long habits encourage regular drinking. The signs of alcohol use disorder are largely ignored.

The risk of disease grows as women drink and age into their later years. Potential ailments include:

  • Heart disease
  • Breast cancer
  • Liver ailments

As health problems afflict these women, they may turn to drinking even more as a coping mechanism. The alcohol can feel like their escape. In reality, it’s hurting them more than helping in the long run. The physical and social benefits, however, may outweigh their logic about quitting drinking.

Women and Workplace Norms

Women may drink with friends or at home to unwind, but there’s another factor that’s impacting society. A large part of the female population works either part-time or full-time hours. After work, their colleagues may ask them to take part in a drink or dinner outing.

Drinking with your work colleagues is part of the networking process today. Men used to be the main players in these scenarios because of their majority in the workplace. Currently, women are taking up this habit as a way to further their careers.

To appease their supervisors, women may drink too much to show off their perceived control. This social drinking can slowly evolve into an addiction issue. Women don’t want to face this fact because the networking aspect is critical to their careers. Continuing with the social drinking can be seen as their only option.

When Drinking Is a Problem

Some women are able to juggle their lives with a healthy relationship regarding alcohol. However, there are countless times when drinking gets out of hand and borders on addictive behavior.

Drinking is a problem when it takes over the majority of a woman’s life. Women should ask themselves if these scenarios apply to them:

  • Thinking about a drink for most of the day
  • Becoming irritable if a drinking period is postponed or canceled altogether
  • Seeking out isolated areas to drink alone

Women are fighting alcohol use disorder when drinking becomes a priority in life. Family, career, and personal needs take a backseat to drinking on a daily basis. At this point, professional help may be needed.

Intervening on a Loved One’s Behalf

You might wonder what you can do if a loved one has a drinking problem. Substance use disorders stem from many different causes. They cannot be narrowed down to just one causal factor. Professional help is necessary to tackle the concerns with a healthy outcome.

Interventions are powerful statements. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and other relatives might gather together in hopes of helping out their loved one. Discussing concerns and possible solutions are options.

Keep in mind, however, that the woman dealing with the use disorder must admit to their problems. She must make an initial realization that drinking is a problem in her life. There can never be a forced sobriety. The woman must make that sobriety decision on her own.

Locating a Treatment Facility

When you or a woman you care about is ready to turn her life around, locating the proper facility is crucial. Consider selecting a facility specializing in alcohol use disorders, and be sure to choose a facility that accepts your insurance.

Another consideration deals with facility locations. Ideally, pick an institution that’s located outside of the woman’s typical neighborhood. A change in scenery will impact the woman’s perceptions. A new start in life coincides with the visuals found outside.

Loved ones might visit a handful of facilities before selecting the right one. If you’re acting on behalf of someone else, give the woman support by visiting the properties with her. Your involvement in her sobriety makes a huge difference over time.

Working Through Addiction

If you are the one receiving treatment for alcoholism, it may help to have an idea of what to expect. Once you enter a treatment facility, you’ll go through several steps along the way to sobriety. Consider these stepping stones, including:

  • Detoxification
  • Private counseling
  • Group sessions
  • Learning new skills

Most treatment periods last several weeks. They’re typically structured as in-house treatments so that you can concentrate on the sobriety work, and no outside influences can derail your progress.

Women can find a whole new social group within their facility. Becoming friends with other patients gives you a social network without alcohol as a crutch. Friendships often grow stronger as you move into outpatient treatment. Dealing with the outside world is a challenge that you can face with support by your side.

Emerging Into the Sober World

Your family will be the main support after in-house treatment. They can keep alcohol out of the house so that there are no temptations. Loved ones might accompany you to new activities and hobbies, such as running a marathon or taking an art class.

Most women need alternative support besides the family unit. Visit support groups in your neighborhood. Become a regular visitor so that you can continue on a sober pathway. Nobody can deal with alcohol use disorder on her own. Speak about your feelings and triumphs at these meetings so that you can emerge with a stronger mind than before.

Accepting the reality of your situation is the only way to go forward toward a sober lifestyle. Lean on true friends and family. Being a modern woman without a drink in your hand is possible with willpower and confidence by your side. It’s possible to quit drinking today so that tomorrow is healthier and better than yesterday.

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