Men commonly drink more alcohol than women, but a study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), which is part of the National Institutes of Health, found that the gap between male and female drinking patterns in the U.S. is narrowing and women are catching up to men in terms of alcohol consumption.
Analyzing data from national surveys conducted between 2002 and 2012, NIAAA researchers discovered that patterns in general drinking habits, number of days they drank in a month, driving under the influence of alcohol and alcohol-use disorder cases between men and women are closing in.
Study results showed that alcohol consumption increased from 45 percent to 48 percent in women but decreased from 57 percent to 56 percent in men. Additionally, the number of drinking days per month rose from 6.8 days to 7.3 days for women but went down from 9.9 days to 9.5 days for men.
Although men still drink more alcohol than women, "the differences between men and women are diminishing," study author Aaron White, senior scientific advisor to the director at NIAAA, said in a news release.
Binge drinking - defined in the study as women drinking four or more drinks and men drinking five or more drinks on a particular occasion - among women 18 to 25 years old who were not in college also increased significantly. On the contrary, binge drinking among men in the same age bracket decreased. However, for men and women belonging to this age bracket who were in college, binge drinking habits did not change.
NIAAA Director George F. Koob said the study reinforces what previous studies have shown about men and women's drinking patterns. He said the rise in women's alcohol consumption is a matter of concern, particularly because women have a higher risk for health problems related to alcohol, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and inflammation of the liver.
There was, however, one exception to the pattern.
"The prevalence of combining alcohol with marijuana during the last drinking occasion among 18 to 25 year old male drinkers increased from 15 percent to 19 percent," White said, adding that "the prevalence of combining alcohol with marijuana during the last drinking occasion among 18 to 25 year old female drinkers remained steady at about 10 percent."
The researchers said the reason behind these changing drinking habits is not clear, although factors like employment and marital status could have influenced the alcohol consumption of men and women.
The study was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.