In all known societies where alcohol is consumed, the men drink more than the women. Because of this, in the UK and other countries, men have been much more likely than women to experience alcohol problems. However, in recent decades, the gap between men and women has narrowed in relation to both consumption and problems.
In the UK, there has been a levelling off in female alcohol consumption in recent years, but instances of heavy drinking remain at historically high levels. It is particularly evident in teenagers, where on some measures teenage girls are as likely as teenage boys to binge drink (see our Adolescents and alcohol factsheet for more information).
Women from managerial and professional socio-economic groups – aka 'high fliers' – also drink heavily on a regular basis. This is seen as a reflection of lifestyle changes in recent decades which have made it more socially acceptable for women to consume alcohol to levels comparable with their male counterparts.
These factors have had a negative impact on women's health; consistently high levels of alcohol consumption have been linked to a steady increase in the number of alcohol-related admissions of women to NHS hospitals over the last decade in England alone, and more new female patient cases are being transferred for alcohol treatment programmes every year, according to the National Treatment Agency.
As the health and social problems from female alcohol misuse grow, there are increasing calls for alcohol policy to be more targeted towards women's drinking habits.
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