“The future is uncertain but the end is always near.” –Jim Morrison

womens reflectionThis quote can be interpreted in many different ways. However, I always use this quote to guide me through a goal whenever I’m insecure of my ability to accomplish it. The end can mean one of two things: success or failure. When it comes to the goal of understanding why women are drinking more and engaging more on risky drinking behavior, I can only hope for success. The end outcome of leaving this growing problem untreated could mean life or death for many women all around the globe.

Thankfully, more research is being done throughout the globe to understand women’s motivations and attitudes towards drinking. A publication posted on the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA) gives an overview of different past, ongoing, and future research studies with different aims all related to reducing alcohol consumption in women. This publication mentions the International Research Group on Gender and Alcohol (IRGGA) which was formed in 1993, which includes more than 100 researchers in 35 countries. This research group had to develop standard reporting units for alcohol consumptions since countries had different ways of measuring data, and once that task was completed, different research between countries was performed.

The most important research mentioned in this published article is The GENACIS Project, a study where than 40 different countries participated, across all continents except Antarctica. This project aimed to understand how gender and culture affected alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems among men and women. The study found that biological differences between men and women were not enough to explain why men drink more alcohol or why women are more vulnerable to effects from alcohol. However, cultural differences explained more of these concepts, because different countries would have vastly different male to female ratios between abstainers, current users, and binge- or heavy-drinkers. The study also found that in Europe and North America, drinking among women declines with age, but for other countries of the world, this pattern was not observed. Women either did not change their drinking habits, or in some countries, they might drink more with age. More interesting results are on the published study, and I would strongly suggest for you all to read it by clicking on the link.

research clip artAdditionally, the project suggests multiple intervention frameworks that could be used, based on the results. Considering that drinking among women does not decline in age for most countries, attention and services should be provided for women of middle-age and older. Most policies and interventions tend to focus on youth drinking, and this is concerning because drinking presents higher risks for women at older ages. Another intervention method should focus on those with higher risk to consume and use alcohol, which include women who cohabit, highly-educated women in lower-income countries, and women who do not have meaningful social roles. Beyond interventions, follow-up surveys are to be conducted in 4 of the participating GENACIS countries, which will provide more future direction on how to intervene the problem. Future research needs to be performed to examine how sexuality affects drinking globally, as such studies have been done in the United States, but not in many other countries.

Another study that will be useful for the future is one conducted by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the HealthyWomen organization. These organizations conducted a survey that included the responses of 1,097 women and it asked a variety of questions. However, the part I was most interested in was the responses to the attitude these women had about drinking. 40% of the women reported at-risk drinking, 24% binge drink, and 16% drink heavily. Only 20% of the women agreed that addiction is under people’s control, yet 55% of these women said they would feel embarrassed if they had a drinking problem. Most importantly, 53% of the women said that women are viewed more negatively than men when it becomes to drinking problems. This suggests that women are scared of the stigma, and this may be preventing more women from getting the help they need to prevent or overcome addiction. This means that more work needs to be done to teach women the benefits of getting help versus allowing alcohol to take over their lives. More work also needs to be done to understand this stigma. Thankfully, public health organizations like the CDC have implementation guides for screening risky alcohol use and for interventions that medical providers and public health officials can use. Hopefully, these implementation guides will be used and adapted globally to reduce the impact of alcohol in male and female health.

Hopefully, all the research completed and ongoing will be used properly to intervene on the narrowing gap between men and women on alcohol consumption. I have hope that the future will not look as grim as it is looking now.

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