Women under more pressure than men and more vulnerable to the effects of excessive drinking

Women are more vulnerable than men to the effects of alcohol because of differences in their weight and body composition, and the way they metabolize alcohol. However, social norms, not biology, are the primary reason why women who drink too much are more vulnerable to physical and sexual violence. These are the main conclusions of the latest publication in the Alcohol and Health series from Éduc’alcool, which is being released in time for International Women’s Day.

Generally speaking, 80% of Quebec women drink alcohol, and do so moderately, in terms of both frequency and amount. There is no indication of the extreme feminization of abusive drinking. However, certain groups of women are drinking more, and more frequently than before, and we must be on guard.

According to the latest research on the subject, part of the reason women drink the way they do lies within our culture, where the division of labour between men and women remains unequal. Another part of the explanation can be found in the immediate drinking environment, which has been shown to have a determining influence on drinking behaviour. For example, many bars, pubs and dance clubs regularly offer alcohol to women at very reduced prices, if any; some have “ladies’ night,” when women can drink all they want for free.

The false pretext of sexual equality

We still hear, far too often, that we’re being sexist when we promote different low-risk drinking guidelines for men and women. That’s not sexism, it’s scientific rigour. The real sexism is that, increasingly, under the false pretext of sexual equality, women are drinking quantities of alcohol that are not appropriate for their biological constitution, while it has been amply demonstrated that a woman who is drunk is far more vulnerable than a man in the same condition.

A number of studies have also looked at the sex-specific consequences of drinking among women, with fetal alcohol syndrome and breast cancer the two alcohol-related health problems most frequently noted.

How do women drink? Why do they drink? What impact does drinking have on their health and well-being? These are among the questions Éduc’alcool attempts to answer in this publication, which is intended for women of all ages, and men, too. We trust it will help everyone become better informed and make more enlightened decisions about drinking, while further convincing them that moderation is always in good taste.