NIAAA Research Reveals Male and Female Drinking Patterns In U.S. Becoming More Alike

BETHESDA, MD, November 30, 2015—A research group at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recently published results of a study that examined data on alcohol drinking patterns from yearly national surveys conducted between 2002 and 2012. The researchers included CSR senior staff members Dr. I-Jen Castle and Chiung Chen. The purpose of this study was to explore changes in alcohol use and associated outcomes among females and males in the United States over a decade. The study, published in the September 2015 issue of Alcoholism: Current and Experimental Research, “Converging Patterns of Alcohol Use and Related Outcomes Among Females and Males in the United States, 2002–2012,” revealed that male consumption of alcohol is down slightly, while female consumption of alcohol is on the rise. Most significantly, male and female drinking patterns are becoming more alike.

In detailing the study’s outcomes, Dr. Aaron White, the NIAAA team leader, said, “Over that period of time, differences in measures such as current drinking, number of drinking days per month, reaching criteria for an alcohol use disorder, and driving under the influence of alcohol in the past year, all narrowed for females and males. . . . Males still consume more alcohol, but the differences between men and women are diminishing.” Reasons for converging patterns of alcohol use are still unclear and do not appear to be easily explainable by recent trends in employment status, pregnancy status, or marital status. But some trends have emerged:

  • From 2002 to 2012, the percentage of U.S. women who had an alcoholic drink in the past 30 days went from 45 percent to 48 percent, while the percentage of men who did went from 57.4 percent to 56 percent.
  • In the United States, males still drink more often and more heavily than females, consuming more than twice as much alcohol per year (18 liters of pure alcohol for males versus 7.8 liters for females).
  • Differences in the drinking patterns of females and males ages 12+ narrowed between 2002 and 2012 for current drinking, number of drinking days per month, past year DSM-IV alcohol abuse, and past-year driving under the influence of alcohol.
  • Divergence in drinking habits did not occur for any measure in any age subgroups, with the exception of a greater increase in the prevalence of combining alcohol with marijuana among male drinkers ages 18 to 25 than among female drinkers the same age.

More research is needed to identify the psychosocial and environmental contributors to these changes and to assess implications for prevention and treatment efforts.

NIH press release:
http://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/male-female-drinking-patterns-becoming-more-alike-us

About the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health, is the primary U.S. agency for conducting and supporting research on the causes, consequences, prevention, and treatment of alcohol abuse, alcoholism, and alcohol problems. NIAAA funds the National Consortium on Alcohol and Neurodevelopment in Adolescence (NCANDA) to determine the effects of problematic alcohol use on the developing adolescent brain and examine brain characteristics that predict alcohol use disorder. NIAAA also disseminates research findings to general, professional, and academic audiences. Additional alcohol research information and publications are available at www.niaaa.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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