Lancaster University

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The changing face of problem drinking in women

01/05/2010 10:54:56

Binge drinking amongst young women may be falling but professional women are hitting the bottle at home, according to new research analysing women’s drinking patterns by Lancaster University. The study, published in Probation Journal today, compares changes in young women’s alcohol consumption in the UK and Denmark - two European countries renowned for their alcohol-related problems.

An analysis of national statistics shows that while there has been an apparent decline in young women’s binge drinking and weekly drinking in both countries since 2000, other more hidden forms of drinking have increased.

These include: more frequent drinking, home drinking and wine drinking into middle age, associated with women in professional occupations.

In terms of the four key indicators, weekly drinking, frequent drinking, immoderate drinking and binge drinking, women in managerial and professional occupations are more likely than other occupational sectors to feature in each group.

The paper, by Dr Fiona Measham at Lancaster University and Dr Jeanette Østergaard at Copenhagen University, argues for a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between alcohol, women’s changing lives and northern European drinking cultures.

Other key findings include:

Dr Fiona Measham, senior lecturer in Criminology at Lancaster University, said: “Young women’s drinking has been a focus of concern during the last decade. Yet whilst national figures suggest that young women's binge drinking may be falling, these changes have not been generally acknowledged in recent years.

“Previously the debate on problem drinking has very much focussed on the public spectacle of the young woman binge drinking – the work-hard play-hard ‘ladette’ stumbling round city centres with clothes askew, the doubly deviant figure of drunkenness in a dress.

“Current alcohol trends challenge some of these enduring stereotypes of problem drinking and lead us to question why we are so eager to demonise young people yet so reluctant to recognise that drinking trends can go down as well as up. This research, for example, highlights the ‘hidden harms’ of increasingly frequent drinking in the home by professional British and Danish women from early adulthood into middle age.