Parenting is hard. Working full-time is hard. Caring for aging parents is hard. All of this adds up to making the lives of millions of American women, at times, very hard.
“More than ever, women have been working full time while still fulfilling their responsibilities at home, leading to increased stress,” says Dr. Fadi Nicolas, chief medical officer of Sharp Behavioral Health Services. “They also report feeling more isolated.”
So, what’s the answer to a stressful day? For many women, it’s donning a comfy T-shirt that might celebrate “Rosé all day”; pouring some red or white wine in a glass that may read, “Wine: Because, kids”; and sipping that glass — perhaps two or more — until the stress slowly ebbs.
Drinking — and deaths — on the rise
This ritual, while comforting for some, can be deadly for others. According to a new study, deaths among women due to alcohol increased 85 percent between 2007 and 2017. Alcohol-related deaths among men rose 29 percent.
“Physiologically, women have less of the liver enzyme responsible for breaking down alcohol than men, so alcohol stays in the body longer,” says Dr. Nicolas. “Women also have less body water than men of a similar weight, so the alcohol is less diluted in women’s bodies.”
Dr. Nicolas says he is seeing women “catch up” to men in terms of their unhealthy drinking. It is becoming more culturally acceptable for women to drink, whether in response to their stressful lives or simply to let loose.
Furthermore, the rise in affluence has led to the creation of a luxury drinking market featuring craft beers, “speakeasies” serving craft cocktails, and direct wine sales ventures for stay-at-home moms or a second form of income.
While the booming “mommy drinking culture” has begun to raise a few red flags — and some are questioning whether it’s funny or troubling to call wine “mommy juice,” or any time of day “wine o’clock” — the reality is that alcohol consumption has become a problem for women, regardless of their stage of life or reasons for its use.
How much is too much?
Drinking alcohol can lead to a variety of health and behavioral issues. While long-term use puts you at risk for alcohol use disorder, heart disease, liver disease, certain cancers and suicide, any consumption of alcohol can cause problems, such as:
- Reduced inhibitions and risky or violent behavior
- Motor impairment, which can lead to car crashes and other accidents
- Confusion, memory and concentration problems
- Breathing problems
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the number of drinks a woman can have to be considered low risk for developing alcohol use disorder is no more than three drinks on any single day and no more than seven drinks per week. For men, low-risk drinking is defined as no more than four drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week.
The following are considered one drink:
- 12 ounces of beer (5 percent alcohol content, although some beers can significantly exceed this percentage, so serving size should be adjusted accordingly)
- 5 ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol content)
- 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (40 percent alcohol content)
However, Dr. Nicolas calls these guidelines generous. He recommends that if you find yourself regularly reaching these daily or weekly maximums, you should cut down or seek help if you are unable to do so on your own.
“Daily drinking puts you at risk,” he says. “I always encourage moderation and decreased frequency in the consumption of alcohol.”
He also encourages you to be mindful of your genetic predisposition to alcoholism and find healthier behaviors to unwind or celebrate, such as exercise, yoga and substance-free socializing. Along with reducing your risk for alcohol use disorder or other alcohol-related health issues, you might also enjoy the benefit of improved skin, weight, sleep, relationships, mental health and performance in all areas of your life.
Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your or a loved one’s use of alcohol or other substances. Sharp McDonald Center, Sharp Grossmont Hospital and Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital all provide substance use programs to help define a recovery path that works best for you.
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Fadi Nicolas about women and alcohol use for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at email@example.com.