Why We're Drinking More Than Our Moms Did

By Katie Parsons for KnowMore.tv

Women today could drink their own mothers under the table, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry.

Researchers studied more than 1,000 mothers and daughters in Australia, and the younger generation was five times as likely to drink 30 or more alcoholic beverages in a month than their mothers did at the same age (ages 18 to 25). For women in the younger generation without children, the odds of drinking at the highest levels doubled and for single mothers, the odds were five times higher.

Though the study took place in Australia, the researchers believe it signals a much larger trend in the developed world.

"International research is urgently needed to confirm what we suspect is a trend, which may have been underestimated in many Western countries," said the study's lead author Dr. Rosa Alati of the University of Queensland. "It may be time for more aggressive anti-alcohol programs aimed at young women."

Are American Women Drinking More, Too?

In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control classifies "heavy drinking" for women as having eight or more drinks in one week, or four or more on a single occasion. A 2012 study released by the CDC found that binge drinking is rising among U.S. women, with one in five young women in high school drinking six drinks or more at a time on three or more occasions every month. The excessive drinking comes with an increased risk of injuries, breast cancer, unplanned pregnancies and heart disease.

Grown women didn't fare much better in the same report, though. The findings revealed that one in eight adult women engaged in the same risky binge drinking behavior as the high school girls.

What's Behind the Alcohol Increase?

It all points to a troubling cultural trend towards women drinking heavily, according to women's health specialist Dr. Nancy Simpkins.

The media has glamorized drinking for women so much that young women see it as a "rite of passage," according to Dr. Simpkins. "Binge drinking has always been thought to be a male disease but lately young women are more guilty of binge drinking than men," she said. "Based on a study such as this one, we need to concentrate our efforts in helping young women to learn the dangers of excessive drinking."

"We have recommended that future research explores how social changes have altered the gender roles for your women in ways that makes it more acceptable to drink much more alcohol than it was acceptable in their mothers' generation," said Dr. Alati.

"We have also hinted at the alcohol industry and its role in targeting young women more aggressively."

Keep Your Drinking in Check

Rather than having young women swear off drinking, they should be educated on the responsible way to enjoy it. Dr. Simpkins says that one glass of wine per day is healthy for heart and circulation health. Other alcoholic drinks should be enjoyed one at a time.

"The problem with alcohol is toxicity to the liver which occurs after drinking large amounts in a short period of time. So the healthy way to drink is in moderation and never exceed the amount that is considered safe for your body type," she said.

What to Do If You Suspect You Have a Problem

If you feel like you're drinking too much -- and the CDC says one in six Americans DOES drink too much -- simply recognizing the problem may help you curb it. Women should never drink more than four drinks on one occasion, or 30 drinks total in a month. If you aren't sure that you can get your drinking under control on your own, contact Alcoholics Anonymous for resources in your area.

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