“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.

“Quarantinis”: It’s 5 pm all day, every day!

A martini wearing a medical mask

The COVID-19 pandemic has induced more stress and anxiety than precedented. Honestly, I do not know of anyone who has not been affected mentally throughout this pandemic. There is worry, loneliness, and panic going through many people’s minds throughout the entire world. Unfortunately, others are suffering through grief as well.

The lack of responsibilities, increased time availability, plus the combination of stress all seem to make a perfect invitation for adults to drink more, and Americans have accepted the invitation well.

During the third week of March in 2020, alcohol sales were 55% higher than any week during 2019 in the United States, as gathered by data from Nielsen Holdings, an information and data firm, and reported by the Healio Primary Care System. Additionally, social distancing allowed online alcohol retailers to bask in orders – alcohol online retail business rose 243% by the end of March, once again reported by Nielsen. This is a concern when it comes to women drinking, considering that women typically have higher alcohol blood content compared to men who drink the same type of drinks and an equal amount of drinks, have the same height and weight. Additionally, women tend to drink more often for negative reinforcement, to reduce stress and relax.

Refinery29 interviewed 13 different women about their drinking habits during the pandemic. From reading all 13 responses, I found this one to be the most impactful:

“It is safe to say that alcohol consumption at our house is up, WAY up. And, if I’m really being honest, I’m not even sure why I’m drinking. I’ve never been one of those people who comes home after a long, hard day at work and pours themselves a glass to take the edge off. So why now? I will admit, sometimes playing the roles of employee, mom, wife, teacher, housekeeper, cook, and whatever else life seems to ask of us these days, drinking a glass of wine does seem to make things feel better. Maybe it allows this super type-A lady to relax and breathe. If I think about it, it’s one of the most ‘normal’ things we can do, given everything else that’s going on. It reminds me of better times — times with friends, times with family, and times when we weren’t worried about anything but having fun.” — Rebecca

10 out of the 13 women interviewed said they increased alcohol consumption during some point of the quarantine. For those 10 women, some common motivators for drinking seem to be to reduce stress, boredom, and for the feeling of socialization. Common stressors for many of the women seem to be the lack of separation of job and home responsibilities. They feel that they cannot juggle being employees, mothers, teachers for their children, and housekeepers all at once.

It was concerning how only 1 of the women was cognizant of how alcohol can exacerbate stress and anxiety. Additionally, many women had an inclination that they were drinking too much but excused it because of the pandemic. I know that 13 women are not representative of the entire female population of the United States. Still, I do believe that many women follow similar mentalities as the 13 interviewed.

Another striking discovery during my COVID-19 research was a warning released by the World Health Organization, where it was suggested that countries restrict alcohol access.  Additionally, the WHO. generated an information brochure about the dangers of alcohol consumption and addressed myths and rumors about alcohol as a preventative agent for infection with SARS-COV-2. Instead, the WHO emphasized on how alcohol can suppress the immune system.

One thing is clear: there is not enough information out there to know the reality of alcohol consumption and how it is affecting women. However, there is enough inclination to suggest that if a prolonged quarantine period occurs, the pandemic will exacerbate the narrowing gap of the amount of alcohol consumption between men and women.

For now, enjoy your quarantinis responsibly, and thank you for reading!Bleach Quarantini