Men may still make more money than their female counterparts for the same work, but at least one other gender gap is closing — a new report shows that women are drinking as much alcohol as men, or at least closing in on men's imbibing level. According to research conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the percentage of women drinking has increased while the percentage of men drinking has decreased. In other words, women are starting to drink like men and vice versa.
This boozy study — which took place over the decade between 2002 and 2012 — divulged that, during that time, the percentage of women who'd partaken of alcoholic beverages in the last month rose from 45 to 48 percent. In contrast, the percentage of men doing so dropped from 57.4 percent to 56 percent. "Males still consume more alcohol, but the differences between men and women are diminishing," said the NIAAA's Aaron White.
And that's not all. It isn't simply more women who are drinking alcohol. Women are also consuming more alcohol overall. The number of days per month women indulged in alcoholic beverages jumped from 6.8 days to 7.3 days. Men only experienced a slight drop in this department, going from 9.9 days per month to 9.5. The study points to binge drinking as a possible explanation for this shift — the same number of college kids admitted to binge drinking, but more women than men aged 18 to 25 who aren't in college fessed to chugging down five drinks or more in a row.
But, ladies, this may not be an advancement in feminism we want to celebrate. The study's authors, who published it in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research , noted that "heavy drinking takes a big toll, and women may not want to catch up to men in this particular area." So, sure, drinking roughly 3 percent more alcohol in a month over the last decade doesn't seem terribly overwhelming. However, the health risks inherent with increasing alcohol consumption are pretty compelling. Here are a few concerns to make mental note of before tacking another night of drinking onto your monthly tab.
Women Absorb More Alcohol
Even when men drink more alcohol and drink it in larger amounts, gender differences in body chemistry mean women actually absorb more booze. Not only that, it takes longer for our bodies to metabolize it. What this all boils down to is that alcohol consumption affects us faster, lasts longer, and makes us more vulnerable to long-term health issues.
Women Are At Greater Risk For Health Probs
You may be scoffing at the seemingly marginal increases found in the study, but those increases account for a heightened risk in a wide variety of health problems. Women are at higher risk for cirrhosis and other alcohol-related liver disease than men. Women who drink excessively have a higher risk for heart damage than men — even if they drink less than said men. Other serious maladies alcohol may increase women's risk of include infertility and cancer.
It Makes Our Brains Fuzzier
The technical term for this is neurotoxicity. Studies have shown that women are at an enhanced vulnerability to alcohol toxicity of the brain. More specifically, we're more likely to suffer brain shrinkage related to alcohol use than men are. This leads to memory loss, lack of clarity, and general brain fuzziness. Furthermore, women suffer neurotoxicity during shorter periods of excessive drinking than men do.
Alcoholism May Be Twice As Fatal For Women
According to a 2012 study out of Germany, women with alcohol addiction were five times more likely to die during the research period than the general female population — while men with alcohol addiction only doubled the death rate of the general male population.
So remember to think before you drink, ladies. Your organs will thank you later.
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