The changing face of alcohol: women and drinking

Educated British women aged 45-64 are now the fastest growing segment of hazardous drinkers in the UK.1

 Women with higher educational and/or socioeconomic status, or those in managerial or professional roles, consume more alcohol on a more frequent basis than other women, with many regularly exceeding the recommended daily level1
  • One in five university-educated women regularly drink ‘hazardously’ compared with one in ten for those who have not attended university1
  • Heavy episodic drinking in this group is a UK-specific trend that is not shared by other European countries1

Do you know how alcohol is impacting your health?

Alcohol affects women differently to men – women absorb more alcohol and their bodies can take longer to remove it.

When women drink, they may have higher blood alcohol levels than men drinking the same amount and feel the effects of drinking faster and for longer because:

  • Women have on average 10% more fat than men, which means there is less body fluid to dilute alcohol, so it travels around women’s bodies in more concentrated form causing more harm2
  • Women’s livers produce less alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme which breaks down alcohol2, meaning their bodies metabolise alcohol more slowly than men

Approximately one in six women may develop a health problem caused by alcohol3

Alcohol can cause a range of short term health problems in women, including sleep disruption, lack of energy, and anxiety or stress.4

Increased alcohol intake can also lead to weight gain over time by reducing fat burn and stimulating the appetite along with its high calorie content; at 7 calories per gram, alcohol contains almost as many calories as pure fat.2

Dehydration caused by drinking alcohol can affect physical appearance, resulting in brittle nails and hair, hair loss, spidery thread veins or worsening of pre-existing conditions such as psoriasis and rosacea.2

If you worry about your alcohol intake, you can do something about it

Habits can be hard to break – there are several methods available that can give your willpower a helping hand.

Keeping a drinking diary:
By keeping a record of the number of alcoholic drinks consumed per day, you can have a better idea of:

  • How much alcohol you are drinking
  • Situations in which you drink
  • How you could start to reduce your alcohol intake

Try a ‘driet’
Try reducing your alcohol intake with a drinking diet or ‘driet’ to help you gain control of your drinking

  • Reduce your drinking to just one or two drinks per day (depending on the size and strength of your drinks)
    - Women should not drink more than 2-3 units per day (about a medium sized glass of wine)
  • Try not to drink every day

Counselling:
Counselling from a general practitioner, private counsellor, psychotherapist or helpline can help provide support and advice for cutting down alcohol, and also for reducing stress or anxiety which may be a cause of increased alcohol consumption5

Alternative therapies:
Hypnotherapy can help some people to relax, examine their lifestyle and change their attitudes towards regular drinking5

Pharmacological intervention:
For people that feel they are drinking too much, and are becoming dependent on alcohol, there are pharmacological interventions available. Some treatments work by breaking the physiological addiction cycle, whilst other treatments may cause an unpleasant reaction when a person drinks alcohol, breaking the reward cycle.

To seek advice on how your alcohol intake may be impacting your health, and discuss appropriate interventions to help you gain control, contact the BMI Health Assessment Team.

To book your consultation call us on 0808 101 0337.

Sources
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Report: Tackling Harmful Alcohol Use. Available at: http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/social-issues-migration-health/tackling-harmful-alcohol-use_9789264181069-en#page1 Last accessed: October 2015
Drink Smart. Alcohol and women. Available at: http://www.drinksmarter.org/sensible-drinking-and-you/alcohol-and-women#sthash.r9WR1C4u.dpuf Last accessed: October 2015
Royal College of Psychiatrists. Alcohol and Depression. Available at: http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsdisorders/alcoholdepression.aspx Last accessed December 2015
Drink Aware. Tired? Sluggish? Stressed? Available at: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/check-the-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/hangovers/tired-sluggish-stressed Last accessed: December 2015
50 Ways to Leave Your Lager. How to cut out alcohol. Available at: http://giveupdrinking.co.uk/helptogiveupdrinking.php Last accessed: October 2015.

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