Alcohol Abuse Among Professional Women

Posted on September 15th, 2012

A new European study shows that well-educated career women drink more than other women both in terms of frequency and quantity. British researchers examined female drinking habits in Denmark and the United Kingdom where populations are characterized by heavy alcohol consumption. Their findings reveal that even though fewer young women in Great Britain and Denmark are drinking excessively at pubs and restaurants, the rates of upper-class women who drink at home and into later life have risen. Equally worrisome was the finding that the problem over-drinking appeared to climb alongside the rise in household income.

Previous studies had shown that more and more British women practice binge drinking and that the problem worsens with age. Binge drinking is indulging in four or more alcoholic beverages in a single situation. Why is it that older women and women in positions of affluence and influence drink more? Experts in the U.K. are suggesting several reasons.

One explanation could be that laws which prohibit smoking in public coupled with stronger penalties for drunk driving have encouraged more people to drink at home. Less expensive alcohol and female-oriented alcohol marketing may also be behind the rise in drinking among professional women. Wine has become a trendy at-home drink among upper-class British women, so one wonders if drinking it has become tinged with status.

Others say that the English government’s open criticism of heavy drinking among its working class combined with a relative silence on the problem among wealthier citizens amounts to an endorsement. There is certainly a mixed message being sent from the higher-ups. The last public health minister in Great Britain condemned the country’s widespread acceptance of drinking and said it paved the way for further problems. Currently in the U.K. it is permissible to serve alcohol to children in the home as young as five years old. For years it was acceptable to serve alcohol at primary school functions. Yet it is clear that other government officials are not of the same mind and see nothing whatsoever to castigate in the habit of acculturated drinking.

There are those here in the U.S. who say that British professional women are not alone in their slide into alcohol abuse. Middle-aged American career women are also drinking more heavily and more frequently than ever before. One report singled out female lawyers as two times more likely to abuse a substance such as alcohol as women who stay at home or work in other fields. Perhaps women are finding it isn’t truly possible to do it all or have it all.

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