Raising awareness on the harms of alcohol for women

Alcohol is know to have it’s dangers; from developmental delays if exposed too young, to lowered inhibitions often leading to risky behaviors, the harms it can cause are no secret, and often seen as worth it for the relaxation a small drink can bring. However, as research and technology move forward, new findings often come to light. Included in this are the recent publications that show how drinking can be much more dangerous for woman than men. Examples include higher prevalence of liver disease, increased dependency issues, and the critical issue of growing rates of breast cancer among women who drink regularly compared to those who don’t.

Beyond the extensive problems themselves these issues can bring,  there is an additional pressing matter in that  often these risks aren’t as well known as others. Without having all of the facts of the dangers of the substance, it’s not completely possible to make an informed decision regarding alcohol.  There are a variety of tactics that can be enacted to educate the population, and seeing how crucial these concerns are, it’s time to implement some of these changes.  

In a 2018 analysis, effectiveness of mass media campaigns targeting alcohol were assessed. Looking at 24 campaigns all placed throughout different areas in developed countries, testing for effectiveness was evaluated by how well consumers recalled information and if any steps or actions were taken that could be directly related to the issue of drinking. The campaigns mainly focused on distribution through materials and media in the form of TV and radio adverts. However, many also utilized billboards, social media ads, and ads along transportation modes and routes.

The results of the analysis showed that while individuals were not necessarily changing their drinking behaviors or attitudes after being exposed to the campaigns, they were recalling the information provided even after substantial amounts of time had passed since being exposed. The graph, summarizes the most notable results of the campaigns after each had aired. Awareness, understanding and recollection were present after in almost each campaign. While none of the studies focused on spreading awareness for the link between alcohol and breast cancer, or any other adverse effects for women, they are effectively showing that these media blitz  advertisements can still work towards making the population aware of certain health issues they may be facing. 

Beyond traditional media efforts that public health organizations can take, there are newer modes that I believe could help spread the issue surrounding this link. Information hidden under the disguise of an internet quiz, listicle, or even a meme. For example, everyone is familiar with Buzzfeed completely pointless and sometimes sponsored quizzes. Mattel sponsored one entitled “Which Barbie doll are you” and the quiz went on to be viewed over 1 million times with almost 200,000 shares on Facebook.

While the idea may be unheard of, if a health related organization put out content in a way that seems maybe less threatening and more Gen z friendly, for example a sponsored quiz or listicle “Are your drinking habits healthy” with a short series of questions that could indicate a need for further research on the users part. It’s private, not intimidating, and exposure could reach a lot of younger women who are coming of drinking age. These sponsored ‘articles’ could be just a small stepping stone towards legitimate information and could provide additional websites or sources to visit for additional information.  It might seem odd and unprofessional in a way but if the goal is to increase awareness around the link between alcohol and breast cancer, and it is, then this is simply another method to increase public awareness for all women in all age ranges. 

Public health organizations and officials who are trying to educate on the dangers of drinking for women should implement some traditional informational techniques, such as media targeted campaigns, while attempting strategies to connect with younger populations. These campaigns need to be targeted, they need to address the issues plainly, and these to be present widespread in spaces where women will access. Through this education, women well at least have the chance to be better informed and hopefully make better decisions regarding long term health. While there is a separate issue of actually mobilizing these populations to change their behaviors around some of the risk factors of alcohol, first and foremost should be the issue of spreading accurate information. 


The Potential for “Mommy Juice”

In the past few years a phenomenon that has been dubbed “Mommy juice” has dominated a variety of social media platforms and marketing techniques. The term mommy juice was made to represent the drinks mothers may need in order to cope with a long day of parenting stress. In addition to dealing with the everyday stresses and anxieties, these women are facing additional pressures navigating through modern parenting. Unfortunately, the common consensus for dealing with these issue have seemed to turn towards drinking as a mechanism. Memes depicting this social structure are shared constantly on Twitter and Facebook.  Products such as Mommy juice wines and accompanying novelty glasses can be found at most retails store, and drinking now more frequently occurs at events where not previously found, such as children’s sporting events and play dates. The potentials for this increasingly popular behavior are dangerous on many levels.

Children whose mothers regularly partake in their, perhaps nightly, indulgence of mommy juice can grow up with the unhealthy idea that alcohol is a safe coping outlet for dealing with stress, which could not be further from the truth. Children learn drinking habits from their parents and heavy drinking observed by children is a major indicator of how their relationship will be with alcohol in the future. The dangers of long term drinking are well known. If these children grow to adapt their mothers ideas of drinking to alleviate negative feelings, they are potentially at risk for the effects such as addiction, unhealthy coping tactics, and liver damage. Children are often observant to such behavior and it is entirely possible they pick up the habit of the necessity of mommy juice if exposed often enough.  Beyond that, these children can also grow up with a notion of normalized drinking in inappropriate places.

Small anecdote from my own life. My younger brother competes in baseball tournaments during the summers; they’re often all day events with multiple games spread out. I went to one Saturday tournament and as I watched I noticed so many of the moms never strayed far from their large colorful thermoses; at one point I leaned over to my own mother and naively asked if they were all that caffeine addicted to be drinking coffee in the middle of a summer day. My mom kinda laughed and told me they fill them up with wine in between games. Sure enough, at one point most of them huddled together and took turns filling up their thermoses. Little was done to hide this fact. I felt that it was somewhat shocking. I’m not unfamiliar with the idea of alcohol at sporting events, but for it to be a children’s game, in the middle of the day, it just seemed out of place. I didn’t attend every game, so I can’t say for certain whether this was a regular occurrence or not, but assuming so, these children can become confused with the social appropriateness of when and where alcohol is seen as acceptable. This concept is not an uncommon event. The following link (IDGAF Mama’s) shows a meme that was shared in a Facebook group titled “IDGAF Mama’s”. The meme encourages an undercover mommy juice blend that can be concealed to look like a Starbucks drink. The picture has been liked more then 3,000 times and shared almost 9,000 times. Moms are undoubtedly relating to it. 

On the other hand, in a point that was brought up both in class, and in Drink by Ann Johnston, it can seem somewhat sexist to question mothers and their drinking habits. Men have been enjoying happy hour drinks for decades, and the post-work beers have never been questioned for them. This could be because of the traditional notion that women are mostly responsible for activities related to raising children. If parental drinking is a concern in raising healthy children, and it is, then both parents should be aware of the dangers related to the situation. However, because women are currently being targeted by the alcohol industry in the form of these mommy juice advertisements, products, and memes they should be more attentive and aware than their male counterparts. There is something inciting in being told you deserve a break, you deserve to reward yourself, and you deserve to indulge a little; the alcohol industry knows this and is throwing everything they can into this marketing scheme. I’m sure a lot of the mothers that relate to the promises of “mommy juice” absolutely do deserve the breaks these companies promote at the bottoms of their bottles, but for the sake of their health and their children’s, alcohol is likely not the outlet to turn to.