There have been a lot of jokes and memes about pandemic drinking by women, but the fact is that in the past two decades, women have often turned to alcohol more than they did in the past.
Yes, the pandemic has compounded the problem. A study in JAMA Network Open in 2020 found that the days in which women drank excessively (defined as four or more drinks in a few hours) increased by 41 percent during lockdown. Another report, from RTI International for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, said that mothers with children under 5 increased their drinking by more 300 percent during the pandemic.
But the pattern of increased alcohol abuse by women appears to have preceded the pandemic. In fact, I was one of them. I found myself drinking more than I did before becoming a mother of two children. Luckily, I was able to recognize the problem and recently celebrated one year of sobriety.
Women need an intervention. Our physical and mental health is suffering because of drinking. We have to address the reality of excessive alcohol consumption by women, and more women need to speak out about it — and seek help.
From 2001 to 2013, there was a 58 percent increase in women’s heavy drinking and an 84 percent increase in alcohol-use disorder. It has an effect on every part of life — from parenting to health care to the economy.
We often assume that men are more typically the ones with a drinking problem. And men do generally drink more — but the gender gap is narrowing. One study reported that from 2006 to 2014, alcohol-related visits to the emergency room increased by 70 percent for women and 58 percent for men. Another found that from 2009 to 2015, the prevalence of women’s cirrhosis related to alcohol rose 50 percent, while men’s increased 30 percent.
American alcohol consumption began to