Women are catching up with men in terms of alcohol consumption and its associated harms, a global study has revealed.
Historically, men have been far more likely to drink alcohol, develop problematic use and suffer the health impact – but women are closing the gap.
The trend, known as ‘sex convergence’, is most evident among young adults, the findings have revealed.
The international evidence, which tracked drinking habits and consequences for over a century, was published in the online journal BMJ Open.
Previous studies revealed up to a 12-fold difference between the sexes, but now evidence is beginning to emerge that suggests this gap is narrowing.
The study analysed of four million people born between 1891 and 2001. According to the BBC, research analysed data from people all over the world although it focused on North America and Europe.
“Alcohol use and alcohol-use disorders have historically been viewed as a male phenomenon,” authors said.
“The present study calls this assumption into question and suggests that young women, in particular, should be the target of concerted efforts to reduce the impact of substance use and related harms.”
Prof Mark Petticrew, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said, according to the BBC: “Men’s and women’s roles have been changing over the decades, this is likely to account for some of these trends – but not all.
“The increasing availability of alcohol also plays an important part, as does the way that alcohol marketing is often targeted specifically at women and particularly young women.
“Health professionals need to help the public – both men and women – to understand the health risks of alcohol consumption, and how to reduce those risks.”
Dr John Larsen, Director of Evidence and Impact at alcohol education charity Drinkaware said: “We know that drinking patterns among different ages and genders are changing over time reflecting wider societal changes, but it is important to remember the harm that heavy drinking can inflict on our physical and mental health.
“The UK Chief Medical Officers recommend that both men and women do not regularly drink more than 14 units a week, which is 6 pints of 4% beer, to keep health risks at a low level. The risk of developing a range of health problems, including cancers of the mouth, throat and breast, increases the more you drink on a regular basis.
“If you would like to take this opportunity to reflect on your own drinking habits, visit our website for more information and take our drink self-assessment: drinkaware.co.uk/selfassessment”