YOUNG WOMEN IN Western countries have caught up with their male counterparts in drinking habits, according to research published today.
Women aged 18-27 years old have almost reached parity with men of their age group in three categories of drinking — the likelihood of consuming alcohol, the risk of problem drinking, and treatment for abuse.
In the mid-20th century, men imbibed more than twice as often, on average, as their female peers, the researchers found.
But women have gradually closed the booze gap at the rate of about 6% per decade and in some areas of drinking outstrip men, they reported in the journal BMJ Open.
The evidence comes from a review of 68 studies, mostly from Europe and the North America, with data covering more than four million people and drinking patterns from 1948 to 2014.
Sixteen of the studies spanned 20 years or more, and five covered periods of at least three decades.
The study did not compare precise quantities of alcohol consumed or in the blood, but rather a broader measure of how likely women and men were to consume liquor.
“Alcohol use and alcohol disorders have historically been viewed as a male phenomenon,” concluded researchers led by Tim Slade from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
The new findings, however, “suggest that young women in particular should be the target of concerted efforts to reduce the impact of substance use and related harms”.
The gradual closing of the alcohol sex gap was not due to men drinking less, but women catching up, they confirmed.
Aggregate figures masked sharp differences between counties.
Earlier studies have shown that alcohol consumption is lower, for example, in Asia, where large gaps remain between men and women.
In 2012, average per-capita consumption in the OECD club of rich nations was 9.1 litres (16 pints) of pure alcohol per capita, according to a 2015 report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The report said that worldwide harmful consumption of alcohol rose from eighth to the fifth leading cause of death and disability from 1990 to 2010.