Kelly Manley sheds light on why women are drinking dangerously and the effects it’s having on their health and well-being.
Women and Alcohol Use
A study published in JAMA Network Open in September found that from 2019 to 2020, reported episodes of heavy drinking among women (at least four drinks in one day) increased by 41 percent. Women may also be more likely than men to deal with COVID-related stress by drinking, says a study published in November 2020 in Addictive Behaviors. “Alcohol is a quick decompression tool, and it’s self-medication for depression, anxiety, overwork,” says Ann Dowsett Johnston, the author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol. “Women today are overwhelmed, and it’s all about coping.”
But COVID is just the tip of the iceberg. Over the past 20 years, American women have been drinking—and dying from it—more than ever before. Between 2002 and 2013, the number of women who have four or more drinks within a day on a weekly basis rose nearly 58 percent. A January 2020 study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that alcohol-related deaths among women in the U.S. rose 85 percent between 1999 and 2017, with the largest increase among non-Hispanic white women.
We cling to the idea that a glass or two of wine a day is harmless, even though new research suggests otherwise. “There is no benefit for alcohol ever in women,” says David Nutt, MD, PhD, author of Drink? The New Science of Alcohol and Your Health, out in December. Just one to two drinks a day has been linked to a 25 to 50 percent increased risk of breast cancer; in June 2020, the American Cancer Society released a new recommendation to simply avoid alcohol. Excessive drinking increases one’s risk for anxiety, depression, suicide, seven different types of cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Further, using alcohol to cope may make you dependent. “As soon as you start drinking to relieve the stress of your marriage or adjusting to motherhood, it becomes more addictive neurochemically,” says author and alcohol-free influencer Annie Grace.