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Study: Drinking Gap Shrinks Between Men and Women

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Wednesday, September 4, 2019   

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – South Dakota is among the top 10 states with the highest alcohol consumption per capita, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and a new study says women make up a higher percentage of people who drink than in past generations.

The Iowa State University study found that the highest alcohol use among women who are white, middle-class and college-educated.

Lead researcher Susan Stewart, an ISU sociology professor, said her findings mirror data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that show life expectancy is on the decline for the first time since World War I.

"Women's life expectancy, like men's, has leveled off," she said, "and part of that leveling off has to do with increased alcohol consumption."

The 2018 "top 10" rankings showed residents of western states have increased their alcohol use the most, by 1.3%, compared with 0.5% in the Midwest. Overall, Stewart's study showed 52% of women reported drinking around seven days in the last month, averaging just over two drinks a day.

While women still drink less than men, Stewart said anecdotal factors for the increase include greater economic independence and more exposure to working environments where alcohol is part of the culture. She added that firms selling alcohol also market to women more aggressively, promoting wines with names such as "Mad Housewife" and flavored vodkas that appeal to women.

"And there's a whole bunch of ways that that message is marketed toward women - whether it be in greeting cards, dish towels, funny signs, memes that come across your Facebook feed - that make alcohol use look like a fun and acceptable thing to do," she said.

Stewart noted that when cigarettes such as Virginia Slims were marketed to women in the 1950s and '60s, women and men began to smoke at similar rates. Her research found that married black women were less likely to drink than single or cohabiting women, but this was not the case for white or Latina women.

The ISU study is online at news.iastate.edu. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism study is at pubs.niaaa.nih.gov.


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