Drinking Patterns More Alike Between Men and Women, NIH Reports

The study was released Thanksgiving week. The Wednesday before the holiday has become one of the most dangerous nights of the year, with the number of violations for driving under the influence higher than Thanksgiving or Christmas Day.

As police get ready for what has become one of the most dangerous drinking nights of the year, a new report from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reveals that keeping young adults safe is becoming harder as young women drink almost as much as the men.

Research led by Aaron White, PhD, of the National Institute of on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of NIH, found that while men still drink more, women are catching up. The study covered data from 2002 to 2012.

“Males still consume more alcohol, but the differences between men and women are diminishing,” White said, when measuring things like number of drinking days per month, driving under the influence of alcohol in the past year, and number of criteria for alcohol abuse disorder.

The study appeared recently in the journal, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Despite efforts on college campuses to curtail binge drinking, it hasn’t changed much, the study found. And, among those age 18 to 25 who are not in college, binge drinking among women increased, while it dropped among men, effectively narrowing the gender gap for this group.

That’s not to say the lighter drinking among men is all good news.

“The prevalence of combining alcohol with marijuana during the last drinking occasion among 18 to 25 year old male drinkers increase from 15% to 19%,” said White, “while the prevalence of combining alcohol with marijuana during the last drinking occasion among 18 to 25 year old female drinkers remained steady at about 10%.”

NIH released the data Thanksgiving week, as millions of young adults get ready to travel home for the holiday. In recent years, law enforcement officers have cited the night before Thanksgiving as an increasingly dangerous evening of alcohol use. Many young adults are home from college and visiting with high school friends, and almost no one has to work the next day, which creates a dangerous combination.

A report released by Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS) said that violations for driving under the influence are 37% higher on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, higher than the following day or Christmas, and some law enforcement officers consider the day more dangerous than New Year’s Eve or St. Patrick’s Day.

AMS issued a report this week on the drinking behavior of 450,000 persons who were being monitored around the clock for after having an offense of driving under the influence. Drinking violations of this group jumped 33% during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, compared with the violation rate the rest of the year.

“These individuals are being monitored every 30 minutes, and they know they are going to get caught,” said AMS Vice President Lou Sugo. “You can imagine the rate of drinking for those who aren’t being monitored.”

Reference

White A, Castle IJ, Chen CM, Shirley M, Roach D, Hingson R. Converging patterns of alcohol use and related outcomes among females and males in the United Sates, 2002 to 2012. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2015;39(9):1712-1726.