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Women’s alcohol use continues to grow amid pandemic, fueling concerns

Health

Women’s alcohol use continues to grow amid pandemic, fueling concerns

If you frequent social media, you’ve probably seen memes that poke fun at the volume of wine women drink. But health experts are finding little to laugh about in the results of research into women’s increasing alcohol consumption.
In recent years, alcohol use among women has steadily risen. A major study released in 2017 found that the number of women who drank alcohol increased 16 percent from 2002 to 2013, while the number of women who drank heavily increased 58 percent. Researchers say changing societal norms about women and alcohol and advertising targeted to women are factors.
Amid the pandemic, alcohol consumption among women spiked even further. According to a study by RAND Corporation, 41 percent of women say they binged on alcohol more often during COVID-19-related shutdowns. That means consuming more than four drinks in a couple of hours’ time.

A concerning trend

Given the significant individual and public health risks posed by alcohol consumption, the statistics are concerning, says Dr. Victor Archambeau, a family medicine physician at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Pawleys Island who specializes in recovery from substance use dependency.
In alignment with CDC guidelines, women should drink no more than one alcoholic drink per day, Dr. Archambeau says. Men should consume no more than two alcoholic drinks.

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Even among women who didn’t have multiple drinks in one sitting, the number of women who drank alcohol daily increased during the pandemic. A study published in the Journal of Gynecology and Women’s Health found a three-fold increase in daily drinking among women, from 5 percent before the pandemic to 16 percent after the arrival of COVID-19.
Those results may be tied, at least in part, to pandemic-induced stress, Dr. Archambeau says. Research has found that COVID-19-related stress was associated with increased alcohol consumption among women, but not men.
“It’s been tough,” Dr. Archambeau says. “There’s a propensity to reach for some kind of release.”
Whatever the reason, alcohol misuse comes with health risks, Dr. Archambeau says, including increased risks for high blood pressure, certain types of cancer, stroke and liver disease. Cognitive impairment, depression, anxiety and insomnia are also potential side effects of heavy drinking.

Help available

If you are concerned that you might have an alcohol problem or if family members are talking about your drinking, those are signs it may be time to cut down, Dr. Archambeau says. Legal issues or relationship problems related to drinking may be another clue you’re drinking too much.
The good news is that help is available, Dr. Archambeau says.
Smartphone apps, Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and rehab clinics are available to help people of any gender get their alcohol use under control, he says.
You can also look to your family medicine physician or groups such as Faces and Voices of Recovery Grand Strand for assistance.

Meet the Expert

Dr. Victor Archambeau

Tidelands Health family medicine physician Dr. Victor Archambeau provides care at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Pawleys Island.

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