Editor’s note: This post originally was published on Hip Sobriety’s blog.
By Holly Whitaker
“The findings are incontrovertible. By every quantitative measure, women are drinking more. They’re being charged more often with drunk driving, they’re more frequently measured with high concentrations of alcohol in their bloodstreams at the scene of car accidents, and they’re more often treated in emergency rooms for being dangerously intoxicated. In the past decade, record numbers of women have sought treatment for alcohol abuse. And, in perhaps the most undeniable statistic of all, they are the consumers whose purchases are fueling steady growth in the sales of wine. Meanwhile, men’s drinking, arrests for drunk driving, and alcohol purchases are flat, or even falling.” — Gabrielle Glaser
I was introduced to Gabrielle Glaser, author of Her Best Kept Secret, a year ago. I had just opened my mouth for the first time at one of my professional networking events about my own struggles with alcohol and my desire to help women such as myself with their own recovery – by providing much needed resources, a sample holistic path, and killing the stigma so we can talk about it the way we do every other health problem.
After an intro to her via email, I was able to see her speak at an event some months later, Health 2.0 in Santa Clara.
I’m a huge fan. She’s a woman’s woman, she’s not afraid to say anything, and she gives a huge shit about challenging the status quo when it comes to addiction, recovery, labels, and drinking culture.
The thing we share deeply in common – palpably so – is the need for a more feminine approach to recovery, and more importantly, a deep desire to bring awareness of some startling trends around women and drinking in our increasingly complex, demanding, isolated, competitive, and non-stop society where the lions share of responsibility for, well, EVERYTHING, continues to fall squarely on women’s shoulders, and where the default coping mechanisms for release and escape from anxiety, depression, and the unending pressure are alcohol and drugs.
Wherever you fall in terms of drinking – from sober to user to abuser to addicted – it’s worth taking note of the trend and reviewing some of the data below, taken from Gabrielle’s book and the NIAAA.
1. Today women buy nearly 2/3rds of the 784 million gallons of the wine sold in this country, and they drink 70% of what they buy.
2. The NIAAA defines low risk drinking limits for women as no more than 3 per day, and no more than 7 per week. To stay low risk, you must keep within both the single-day and weekly limits.
3. A national analysis of hospitalizations for alcohol overdose found that the rate of young females age eighteen to twenty-four jumped 50 percent between 1999 and 2008. In the same period, the rate for young men rose only 8 percent.
4. In the same time period as #3, the number of young women who turned up at hospitals having OD’d on both drugs and alcohol more than doubled. Among young men, it stayed the same.
5. Nearly 720,000 women follow “Moms Who Need Wine” on Facebook
6. In 2010, Gallup pollsters reported that nearly two-thirds of all American women drank regularly, a higher percentage than any other time in twenty-five years. Like many other studies around the world, Gallup found that drinking habits correlated directly with socioeconomic status. The more educated and well off a woman is, the more likely she is to imbibe.
7. The CDC found that while more college-age women binge drink, the frequency of binge drinking among women ages forty-five and older is about the same as it is for younger females, about once a week. The average number of drinks downed per binge is six.
8. The number of women arrested for drunk driving rose nearly 30 percent in the nine years between 1998 and 2007. In California alone, between 1994 and 2009, that number doubled, going from 10.6 percent of all drivers to 21.2. Women over forty had among the highest rates of arrest.
9. Two large national surveys of drinking habits, conducted in 1991 and 1992, and again in 2001 and 2002, found that women born between 1954 and 1963 had an 80 percent greater chance of developing dependence on alcohol than women who were born between 1944 and 1953. For men of those generations, the rate stayed flat.
10. In the early 1980s, one in ten women answered yes to the question: “Are you concerned about your drinking?” In 2002, it was one in five.
11. Alcohol-dependent women have death rates 50 to 100 percent higher than those of alcohol-dependent men, including those from suicide , liver cirrhosis, and alcohol-related accidents.
12. In California, the number of young women responsible for alcohol-related accidents jumped 116 percent between 1998 and 2007. It rose as well among young men, but only by 39 percent. While the number of U.S. drunk-driving deaths fell between 2001 and 2010, from 12,233 to 9,694, the number of female drivers responsible for them rose by 15 percent.
13. Between 1992 and 2007, the number of middle-aged women who checked into rehab nearly tripled.