Women Receive Mixed Messages About Alcohol Use, And It’s Killing Them
In the past, alcohol use has been marketed as a sexy, social habit that can help you win friends and have a good time in the process. But that has changed since the widespread use of social media over the last decade or so.
These ads were decidedly less sexy, but consisted of one or two themes: women’s liberation, and the release of stress.
Ads and memes now often show women drinking wine to unwind, and keeping up with men in terms of liquor consumption. In other words, it’s okay to de-stress at the end of the day, ladies, with a bottle of bubbly. Furthermore, it’s okay to out-drink your male friends, and you are no less a woman for doing so.
Current Use Statistics For Women
A recent analysis of federal health data revealed that binge drinking among white women increased significantly since 1999. In the last few years, women have been drinking more and more often than their mothers and grandmothers, and therefore, excessive alcohol consumption has resulted in an increase in alcohol-related deaths.
According to a Washington Post analysis, white women, in particular, are likely to engage in dangerous drinking behavior, and more than 25% report drinking more than once time a week. Binge drinking has increased among women as well, and in 2013, over one million women of all races were hospitalized for heaving drinking.
Middle-aged women were most susceptible to severe intoxication. This flies in the face of the belief that college girls are the worst drunks out there.
All of these increases in drinking have also resulted in early mortality. The alcohol-related death rates for white women aged 35-54 has doubled since 1999. In 2015, it also accounted for 8% of deaths in this age group.
Simply put, ads and memes have increasing began to promote heavy drinking, which experts agree is very bad for your health. It can also have fatal consequences, in both acute and chronic alcohol-related conditions.
A good example is this occurred when images of comedian and actress Amy Schumer guzzling boxed wine surfaced on social media. Other women responded with similar photos of themselves chugging the wine, and within months, sales of boxed wine increased 22%.
In the past, alcohol markets has been regulated by industry trade groups. However, several studies have revealed inconsistencies in rule enforcement.
Consequently, an international group of public health experts convened by the World Health Organization in Washington D.C. is planning to call on governments globally to adopt legislation aimed to restrict tobacco advertising.
Alcohol institute groups do not defend poor advertising practices – for example, The Distilled Spirit Council of the United States (DISCUS), one of the largest U.S. trade groups, tells members that ads should not “in any way suggest that intoxication is socially acceptable conduct.”
Furthermore, The Beer Institute informs members that “marketing materials should not depict situations where beer is being consumed rapidly, excessively.” The Wine Institute says they bans ads that offer “any suggestion that excessive drinking or loss of control is amusing or a proper subject for amusement” or associate wine consumption with “social, physical or personal problem solving.”
But some of these rules may be regularly ignored. Moreover, trade groups admit that they do not investigate or take action on potential violations unless a formal complaint is received.
The Normalization of Heavy Drinking and Women
Many of the new ads appear on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. They are often marketed to a finely-honed target based on age, gender, lifestyle, location, demographics, and behaviors.
The act of intoxication has become somewhat of a joke. Indeed, one popular ad shown on Twitter shows a women with a large bottle of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey raised toward her lips.
And then there is the stress relief angle of alcohol use. An image exhibited on one company website showed two prim-looking women conversing: “How much do you spend on a bottle of wine?” one asks. The other responds, “I would guess about half an hour. …” The wine is called Mommy’s Time Out.
Yet another ad for Mad Housewife features a woman in pearls and an apron: “The most expensive part of having kids is all the wine you have to drink.” The wine label also offered a Mother’s Day promotion this past spring in the form of a wine six-pack called Mommy’s Little Helper.
The Truth About Gender And Alcohol Use
These images and others appear to normalize heaving drinking for women. However, it may also contribute to increased mortality – because of course, women are no less prone to alcohol-related diseases than men. In fact, they may be in even more danger.
For one, women tend to be smaller and weigh less. They also have physiological differences that make their blood alcohol concentration level rise faster, and stay that way for a longer period.
A few studies have also found that women have less stomach enzymes than men, i.e. those needed to process the toxins in alcohol.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women are more likely to develop brain atrophy, heart disease and liver damage in response to heavy alcohol use – even after they stop drinking.
Most standards for safe drinking for women do not exceed 1-2 drinks per day: a drink being one beer, one glass of wine, or one ounce of liquor.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology