Nav: Home

'Women my age tend to drink -- it's normal'

February 10, 2020

Women aged 50-70 are more likely than younger women to consume alcohol at levels that exceed low risk drinking guidelines - and most think that's just perfectly fine.

New Edith Cowan University (ECU) research has found that despite the potential health risks of exceeding national drinking guidelines, many middle-aged and young-old women who consume alcohol at high risk levels tend to perceive their drinking as normal and acceptable, so long as they appear respectable and in control.

The study is a collaboration between ECU and Aalborg University, Denmark, led by Dr Julie Dare from ECU's School of Medical and Health Sciences. It investigated the social construction of alcohol use among 49 women aged 50 to 69 in Denmark and Australia.

According to Australian health authorities, drinking more than two standard drinks on any day increases the risk considerably of premature death over a woman's lifetime.

Key findings:
  • Women place more importance on appearing to be in control, behaving respectably, social pleasure and feeling liberated than the quantity of alcohol consumed or potential health risks.

  • While some women reported reducing their drinking due to health concerns, others suggested that positive health behaviours such as exercise served to 'neutralise' alcohol-related health risks.

  • Health advice and interventions relating to middle-aged and young-old women's drinking practices need to acknowledge that women may socially construct their drinking practices to prioritise matters other than biomedical impacts of alcohol.
Controlled and acceptable drinking

Dr Dare said the research highlighted the widespread use of alcohol in both samples of women in Australia and Denmark.

"Respondents from both countries indicated that alcohol use among women their age was normal and acceptable," she said.

One respondent observed:

"It has become part of the norm . . . it is something we do with our acquaintances, friends and families. That's just something we do" (D8, 59 years).

"However, the importance of 'staying in control' while drinking emerged as an important qualifier to the social acceptability of drinking," Dr Dare said.

Another respondent said:

"As long as they (women) don't make a fool of themselves, they don't want to go falling down and showing their knickers" (A9, 69 years).

"Health messaging of no more than two standard drinks per day and no more than four standard drinks on any single drinking occasion didn't seem to be relevant to women in this age group. There was a fair percentage drinking over that," Dr Dare said.

"In Australia, younger women are starting to drink less, their rates have declined, but the proportion of women aged 60 and older drinking at levels that exceed single occasion guidelines (more than 4 standard drinks on a single occasion) has increased. Similar trends are evident in Denmark and the United Kingdom."

Cultural differences

While the study highlighted many similarities between Australian and Danish women, one interesting cultural difference was the way Australian women thought about alcohol in relation to stress.

"If the Australian women had some sort of distress in their lives they believed it was acceptable to drink. They were quite open about this saying 'I just had a bad day, I needed to have a drink'," Dr Dare said.

"Danish women were not the same. They reported it wasn't 'acceptable' to drink if they were upset. They believed that you shouldn't use alcohol as a crutch to cope," she said.
-end-
The paper "Women of my age tend to drink": the social construction of alcohol use by Australian and Danish women aged 50 - 70 years is published in the journal of Sociology of Health & Illness.

Media contact: Tori Pree, Communications Coordinator, 08 6304 2208, t.pree@ecu.edu.au

Edith Cowan University

Related Alcohol Articles:

Sobering new data on drinking and driving: 15% of US alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities involve alcohol under the legal limit
A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier, found that motor vehicle crashes involving drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) below the legal limit of 0.08 percent accounted for 15% of alcohol-involved crash deaths in the United States.
Alcohol marketing and underage drinking
A new study by a research team including scientists from the Prevention Research Center of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation provides a systematic review of research that examines relationships between exposure to alcohol marketing and alcohol use behaviors among adolescents and young adults.
Alcohol-induced deaths in US
National vital statistics data from 2000 to 2016 were used to examine how rates of alcohol-induced deaths (defined as those deaths due to alcohol consumption that could be avoided if alcohol weren't involved) have changed in the US and to compare the results by demographic groups including sex, race/ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status and geographic location.
Cuts in alcohol duty linked to 2000 more alcohol-related deaths in England
Government cuts to alcohol taxes have had dramatic consequences for public health, including nearly 2000 more alcohol-related deaths in England since 2012, according to new research from the University of Sheffield's School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR).
Integrated stepped alcohol treatment for people in HIV care improves both HIV & alcohol outcomes
Increasing the intensity of treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD) over time improves alcohol-related outcomes among people with HIV, according to new clinical research supported by the National Institutes of Health.
The Lancet:Targets to reduce harmful alcohol use are likely to be missed as global alcohol intake increases
Increasing rates of alcohol use suggest that the world is not on track to achieve targets against harmful alcohol use, according to a study of 189 countries' alcohol intake between 1990-2017 and estimated intake up to 2030, published in The Lancet.
Alcohol-induced brain damage continues after alcohol is stopped
Now, a joint work of the Institute of Neuroscience CSIC-UMH, in Alicante, and the Central Institute of Mental Health of Mannheim, in Germany, has detected, by means of magnetic resonance, how the damage in the brain continues during the first weeks of abstinence, although the consumption of alcohol ceases.
Does alcohol consumption have an effect on arthritis?
Several previous studies have demonstrated that moderate alcohol consumption is linked with less severe disease and better quality of life in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, but a new Arthritis Care & Research study suggests that this might not be because drinking alcohol is beneficial.
How genes affect tobacco and alcohol use
A new study gives insight into the complexity of genetic and environmental factors that compel some of us to drink and smoke more than others.
Cutting societal alcohol use may prevent alcohol disorders developing -- Otago research reveals
Society must take collective responsibility to reduce the harm caused by alcohol use disorders, a University of Otago academic says.
More Alcohol News and Alcohol Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Clint Smith
The killing of George Floyd by a police officer has sparked massive protests nationwide. This hour, writer and scholar Clint Smith reflects on this moment, through conversation, letters, and poetry.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.