Addiction to alcohol is a problem that can affect people from all demographics and all walks of life. In the past alcoholism has traditionally been considered a “man’s problem” because of higher numbers of men with the disease. However, recently the number of women struggling with alcohol abuse has skyrocketed and they are rapidly catching up to the amount of men who develop addiction.
Unfortunately, alcoholism is often under-reported in women because they may worry about the stigma or try to hide their problem from the public. The number of women suffering from an alcohol dependency has grown to 4 million, representing about 2.6 women in the U.S. However, as many as 5.6 million women currently drink alcohol in a way that threatens their health and safety.
Recent studies have shown that the rate of women suffering from alcohol abuse and dependence has increased 83.7 percent between 2003 and 2013. Experts worry that this dramatic increase may represent a public health crisis for women who are engaging in high risk drinking. These historic increases point to a growing problem among women and how they cope with stress.
Working Women and Stress
Experts believe that steady rise in alcohol abuse among women may be related stress and anxiety associated with a work-life balance. Reports show that women who are working today are unhappier than their mothers were 40 years ago. Women also tend to be unhappier than men now when they actually reported being happier than men according to studies in the early 70s.
One reason that stress and unhappiness has increased may correspond with the growing work week among Americans. Between the years of 1979 and 2006, the typical American work week increased by about 11 hours. More recent studies showed that only about 30 percent of American fathers contributed equally to women in child care.
The increasing work hours and lack of support in caring for children at home may have contributed to growing stress levels for modern women. Mothers who work full time may find it hard to balance their career and also care for their family without getting enough help from their spouses or other family members. These added stresses may become overwhelming for women who look for ways to cope with their problems.
In addition to all these stress factors there has also been an increase in marketing from the alcohol industry that is directed toward women. In an effort to gain more customers in the female demographic, alcohol brands have created ads targeting women by persuading them that alcohol is a solution for stress. Sweet flavored and fizzy drinks are often marketed toward women in single serving cocktails.
How Alcohol Affects Women
Part of the reason that the steep rise in alcohol abuse among women is so alarming is that they can experience more health problems related to drinking than men. Women tend to be more prone to alcohol-related health issues because of their different hormones and metabolisms. Women are physiologically different than men and as a result can be more vulnerable to negative consequences from drinking.
One factor is that women tend to have more body fat than men do which can make it harder to dilute alcohol through fluid in the body. It is also harder for women to metabolize and break down alcohol which means that a larger proportion of the drug will enter a woman’s bloodstream compared to a man. Intoxicating effects of alcohol can also set in faster when a woman is experiencing higher estrogen levels.
The rise in alcohol abuse among women has already led to increasing health problems for the female demographic. Alcohol-related emergency room visits among women between ages 25 and 34 have been increasing in large numbers. These types of visits usually occur after years of repeated alcohol misuse which indicates that women in these age groups have severe addictions.
In addition to having more damaging health consequences from drinking, women are also more likely to hide their behavior. There is a much greater cultural stigma for women who drink heavily than for men which may make it difficult for them to come forward and get help. Women’s alcohol problems in general tend to be more hidden and kept underground which is dangerous for their recovery.
Experts are growing more concerned over the steady and continuing rise of alcohol addiction among women. While men still tend to suffer more often from alcoholism, women are quickly approaching similar numbers. It is important for women to have resources for support and feel comfortable in reaching out for help.
If you think that you or someone you love may be suffering from an issue with alcohol abuse or dependency then contact a rehab treatment center in your local area.