Alcohol Harm in Women

The harm alcohol can cause women has been proven, but it is still widely unknown amongst people, hence, the growing amount of women who are consuming alcohol. Because women’s bodies absorb more alcohol than men, it takes a longer time for the body to metabolize and rid the body of it, so there is a greater risk for long-term health problems.

The CDC reports that 46% of adult women reported drinking in the last 30 days, and 12% of women reported binge drinking 3 times per month–averaging 5 drinks per binge. Women may have adverse health outcomes from these behaviors related to reproduction and fertility, liver disease, brain function, heart function, an increased risk of cancer, and an increased risk of sexual assault. 

The relationship between alcohol consumption and breast cancer has also been heavily researched. The Susan G. Koman website reports that from an analysis of 53 studies, it was found that for each alcoholic beverage consumed each day, the relative risk of breast cancer increased 7%. Some may argue that there has been proven benefits for the heart with drinking alcohol, but as this article states–is this a fair trade when the risk of breast cancer is also increased? With such overwhelming evidence that there is a relationship between alcohol consumption and breast cancer (and other diseases), how can we make sure women are receiving the message that alcohol is harmful to our health? 

Doctors should get involved, and ask screening questions about alcohol use. Doctors should be able to educate women on the adverse health outcomes of alcohol consumption.

Brief interventions have been proven to reduce drinking alcohol among women. These interventions were performed in clinical settings and healthcare services, and the study showed that there was an decrease in both the number of days alcohol was consumed and the amount. The effectiveness of these brief interventions was noted to be related to the impact on reproductive health and the lower social acceptance of female consumption.  However, young people are less interested in having babies now more than ever. We also know it is becoming increasingly acceptable for women to consume alcohol.

This article discusses the cultural shift and how pop culture seems to “celebrate women who drink rather than warn against it.” This makes it difficult to identify what kind of interventions would be successful. 

There have been public campaigns against harmful substances such as tobacco and e-cigs, as well as campaigns against drunk driving and texting while driving.  Perhaps a campaign about the gender-specific effects of alcohol on women would be helpful. I, for one, have these campaigns in the back of my mind when I see people smoking cigarettes or texting while they are driving. It is a tricky issue because some may see this kind of campaign as an attack on women. Most importantly, I believe conversations like those tweeting #GSUwhyshedrinks must continue, as awareness is key for solving this growing issue. 

Alcohol Memes and Women

If you’re on social media, then chances are you have seen a meme that relates to drinking alcohol. Have you ever thought about how many of these drinking memes relate to women? In particular, wine and women seem to go hand-in-hand everywhere, from memes to marketing tactics. For example, at a bar I used to work at, we started “Wine Wednesday” to specifically draw women into the bar. Look at the meme below, which mentions “wine o’clock”– a phrase I have heard women refer to a lot recently.


How are these messages influencing women and alcohol consumption? I believe it is normalizing the behavior, and it seems like there is humor surrounding dealing with life issues by drinking. This theme might make women less likely to cope with struggles in a healthy manor. I was shocked when I saw the meme below–“Never ask a woman drinking wine straight from the bottle how she’s doing”–by how direct these messages can be in encouraging poor behavior. 




One doctor says that these kinds of memes have created an easy way to “relax and reward” in a dangerous way. Instead of dealing with real life issues, such as anxiety, women may turn to alcohol in order to feel better. I also know plenty of women that use wine as a way to sleep at night and choose to consume it before going to bed. Wine is used to “unwind” and is seen as a positive reinforcement–a dangerous cycle women can fall into. A women with a drinking problem may be hard to spot due to the way we have normalized the consumption of wine. 

When looking into the relationship of wine and anxiety, I came across this website for a vineyard that has a page dedicated to how wine induces relaxation and stress relief. What’s the picture they chose for the article? A peaceful looking woman sniffing a glass of wine. The sad truth is that wine can actually exacerbate the feelings of anxiety and stress. This article outlines the effects of alcohol and anxiety. Alcohol is a depressant, and although it may give a euphoric feeling as your BAC rises, however, as your BAC falls, it can cause depressive feelings. Alcohol-induced anxiety is common, and using wine as a way to “unwind” at the end of a stressful day may be counteractive. 

This study looked gender differences and the coping mechanisms related to drinking alcohol. The study found that women with low depressive symptoms were more likely to drink as a coping mechanism. In other words, coping by drinking alcohol isn’t confined to those with deeper mental health issues. This is also concerning because it makes the problem hard to identify. 

More awareness is needed on the harm these memes and messages may be causing women. It seems like there is a huge movement recently to support mental health, and it doesn’t seem far-fetched to encourage people to think about the effect these messages may have on women’s mental health and coping habits.