Alcohol: College Women are Out-Drinking Men

According to a recent report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), young college women are drinking more often than their male counterparts and they are drinking more each time they do. And there are not many signs that show they are slowing down any time soon.

The NIAAA reports that women should stick to no more than 7 drinks per week and men should limit themselves to 14 drinks per week. Why is that?

“Even if you hold weight constant, there are differences in terms of how alcohol affects men and women,” she said. “For example, men have more of an enzyme in the stomach — a gastric alcohol dehydrogenase — that lowers the amount of alcohol that makes it into the bloodstream. Also, women have less blood going through the bloodstream than a man at the same weight, so alcohol gets more concentrated in the bloodstream.”

The recent report included 992 participants, 575 women and 417 men. The college freshmen were recruited from three universities in the United States. Students filled out biweekly email surveys about their recent drinking habits during the school year. Here is what they found:

  • 65% of women surpassed the recommended alcohol use versus 60% of men;
  • On average, women drank more than the recommended amount of alcohol in 15% of weeks in the academic year while men drank for only 12%;
  • While men were less and less likely to exceed their limits as the school year progressed, female students showed no signs of slowing down throughout the academic year.

“Recommended drinking limits are lower for women than for men because research to date has found that women experience alcohol-related problems at lower levels of alcohol consumption than men,” said corresponding author Bettina B. Hoeppner of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Addiction Medicine, an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. “It is always important to take gender into account when studying health or risk behaviors,” added Melissa A. Lewis, associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington.


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