Study Suggests Link Between Pandemic and Women’s Alcohol Abuse


Link Between Pandemic and Women’s Alcohol Abuse

Study Suggests Link Between Pandemic and Women’s Alcohol Abuse

Monday, May 6th, 2024

A recent study published in the journal JAMA Health Forum highlights the adverse effects of alcohol misuse among middle-aged women during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Between April 2020 and September 2021, alcohol-related complications surged by 33% to 56% among women aged 40 to 64, as this demographic sought hospital care in record numbers due to alcohol misuse. Specifically, the study’s authors pointed to a sharp rise in alcohol-related complications that typically take years to manifest, including cirrhosis and severe withdrawal symptoms such as delirium tremens.

What Has Changed?

Over the last decade, women between 35 and 50 have also been binge drinking more frequently than ever before. Compared to pre-pandemic times, there was a 41% increase in heavy drinking days among women during the study period.

Though the survey did not examine cause and effect, it’s reasonable to attribute the issue to the exacerbated stress, isolation, and worries of the early pandemic era. In other words, women who already had a problematic relationship with alcohol turned to a familiar crutch to cope with the exacerbated challenges of this unprecedented time.

Understanding Women’s Unique Challenges and Treatment Barriers

For many years, substance abuse research predominantly focused on men, ignoring the biological differences and cultural biases between genders. This gender bias has done a disservice to women in multiple ways by neglecting their experiences with addiction and adding obstacles that prevent them from seeking help.

1. Accelerated Progression in Women

Women who drink alcohol experience a more rapid progression from tolerance to chronic dependence than men – a phenomenon called “telescoping.” Those who enter addiction treatment may also face more severe physical, psychological, and social difficulties than their male counterparts, even if they have abused alcohol for less time.

2. Biological Differences

Because women have slower metabolisms and more fatty tissue than men, they tend to have a higher BAC after consuming the same amount of alcohol. When women drink, the alcohol stays in their bodies for longer periods, elevating the risk of adverse effects like hangovers and blackouts.

3. Socioeconomics

Many women are caregivers who may put their needs aside to prioritize the responsibilities of looking after young children or older parents, preventing them from seeking professional help. Additionally, because of the gender pay gap, women earn less than men and may believe they cannot afford to enter rehab. 

4. Co-occurring Disorders 

The prevalence of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and eating disorders is higher in women than in men. The presence of a dual diagnosis may make women more vulnerable to telescoping and less likely to recognize when they need treatment.

5. Cultural Norms

Admitting to having a drinking problem can be more difficult for some women who fear the potential repercussions of public shame. Conversely, pop culture has gone a long way toward normalizing drinking for women, portraying alcohol as a coping mechanism for busy moms and professionals. These mixed societal messages can keep women in denial about the extent of their alcohol problems.

Don’t Face Your Problems Alone

Understanding gender-specific factors is paramount in tackling alcohol use disorder in women, particularly when dealing with recently exacerbated drinking problems. We can develop prevention and treatment approaches tailored to women’s unique needs by delving into these nuances. Breaking down societal barriers and reducing the stigma surrounding alcohol addiction are crucial steps toward fostering a supportive environment for women seeking help.

Accessible care plays a pivotal role in ensuring that women have the resources and support necessary to overcome alcohol dependence and regain control of their health and well-being. By addressing these issues comprehensively, we can pave the way for more effective interventions and ultimately improve outcomes for women battling alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol addiction can rob you of your happiness and ability to live up to your full potential. At R&A Therapeutic Partners, we specialize in empowering our clients with the tools they need to recover and thrive by providing compassionate coaching. Our expert addiction specialists, Raymond Estefania, and Ana Moreno, have put healing within reach for hundreds of people impacted by substance use disorders and mental illness. Contact us today to learn more about our specialized services and how we can work with you. 

At R&A Therapeutic Partners Raymond Estefania and Ana Moreno specialize in substance use and mental health disorder evaluations, treatment, intervention and therapeutic/educational consulting for clients throughout the greater South Florida area, as well as nationally and internationally. For more resources and information please visit Therapeutic-Partners.com or on Facebook.

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