Alcohol’s Rising Impact on Women’s Health

In recent years, the impact of alcohol on women’s health has become a growing concern.  Studies show that women are consuming alcohol at rates comparable to men, leading to an increase in alcohol-related health issues among women. Understanding how alcohol affects women differently and the factors driving these trends is crucial for fostering healthier lifestyles and reducing risks. As Director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Dr. Koob recently stated, “Alcohol is a growing women’s health issue. The rapid increase in deaths involving alcohol among women is troubling and parallels the increases in alcohol consumption among women over the past few decades.”

Historical Context of Alcohol Consumption in Women

Historically, alcohol consumption was predominantly higher among men. However, societal changes over the past few decades have seen a significant rise in drinking among women. What was previously a 3-1 ratio for risky drinking habits in men versus women became nearly identical after a 2016 analysis of several dozen studies. There are a variety of both social and biological factors impacting this. As Dr. Peter Martin notes “it’s become more and more socially acceptable for women to drink as much as men,“ and as Dr. Lisa Ganjhu shares “they don’t need to drink as much as men to develop liver disease.” We’ll dive more into these and other factors below. 

Current Trends in Alcohol Consumption by Women

Recent studies indicate that women are now drinking as much as men,  and over the last 10 years, a growing number of American women — and particularly women in middle age — have reported binge-drinking.

“It used to be that 18- to 25-year-old males were the most likely to drink or the most likely to binge,” said Aaron White, a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Now, binge drinking occurs more among people between the ages of 26 to 34, and is becoming more common among women. “Everything’s just getting pushed back later,” he said.

Rise in Alcohol-Related Deaths for Women

An alarming study recently published found that the rate of alcohol-related deaths among women increased by 14.7% between 2018 and 2020, exceeding the rate for men, which also rose by 12.5%. 

Here’s what’s behind it:

  • Connotations that men drink more than women are false. Recent studies show women are drinking just as much as men, and in some cases, outdrinking them when it comes to binge drinking.
  • Physiological Differences: Alcohol impacts women’s bodies differently than men’s. Women take longer to metabolize it and are more susceptible to some alcohol-related diseases. 
  • Social and Behavioral Differences: Women are more likely to use alcohol as a way to manage stress and emotional distress.

Physiological Effects of Alcohol on Women

Metabolism and Absorption

Women metabolize alcohol differently than men due to differences in body composition and chemistry. Generally, women have lower levels of alcohol dehydrogenase, an enzyme that breaks down alcohol in the stomach, leading to higher blood alcohol concentrations. Additionally, women typically have a higher percentage of body fat and lower water content, causing alcohol to be less diluted in their bodies.

Health Risks and Conditions 

Alcohol consumption poses several health risks for women:

  • Liver Disease: Women are more susceptible to alcohol-induced liver damage, including cirrhosis and hepatitis.
  • Breast Cancer: Even moderate drinking has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Alcohol can raise estrogen levels, which can promote the growth of breast cancer cells.
  • Cardiovascular Diseases: Chronic alcohol use can lead to hypertension, cardiomyopathy, and an increased risk of stroke.
  • Mental Health: Women are more likely to experience depression and anxiety related to alcohol use, which can create a vicious cycle of drinking to cope with these conditions.

Social and Behavioral Factors

Research has shown that women are more likely to use alcohol as a way to manage stress and emotional distress compared to men. This can lead to a dangerous cycle where drinking exacerbates mental health issues, leading to increased consumption. Some of the behavioral factors impacting the rise of drinking in women include: 

“Mommy Wine Culture”

The normalization of drinking among mothers, often referred to as “mommy wine culture,” has contributed to increased alcohol consumption. Social media and marketing often depict alcohol as a harmless way for mothers to relax, overlooking the potential health risks and promoting unhealthy drinking habits. As an article from Fast Company points out, while nearly all of us engaged in the playful “Mommy Wine Culture,” especially during the pandemic when people were so desperately looking to connect over anything, the truth is a lot more concerning. Women are more stressed at work, and more stressed at home – and they’re turning to alcohol to cope with this.

Strategies for Healthier Living

Moderation and Abstinence: Reducing alcohol intake or abstaining altogether can significantly improve health outcomes. Strategies include setting clear limits, tracking drinking habits, and seeking alternatives to alcohol for stress relief. Check out more tips on moderating your drinking.

Support Systems and Resources:
Support groups, such as those provided by Monument, offer a valuable resource for women looking to change their relationship with alcohol. Counseling, therapy, and online communities can provide the necessary support and guidance.


The rising impact of alcohol on women’s health is a significant public health concern. By understanding the unique ways alcohol affects women and addressing the social and behavioral factors contributing to increased consumption, we can promote healthier lifestyles. It is essential for women to be aware of the risks and to seek support if they are struggling with alcohol use.


How does alcohol affect women differently than men? Women metabolize alcohol more slowly, leading to higher blood alcohol levels and increased health risks such as liver disease and breast cancer.

What are the health risks of alcohol consumption for women? Health risks include liver disease, breast cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Why are more women drinking alcohol now compared to the past? Societal changes, increased stress levels, and targeted marketing towards women have contributed to higher alcohol consumption rates among women.

What are some signs that alcohol is negatively impacting my health? Signs include frequent hangovers, increased tolerance, drinking to cope with stress, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

What strategies can women use to reduce their alcohol intake? Strategies include setting clear limits, tracking drinking habits, seeking alternatives for stress relief, and joining support groups.

Are there any specific support groups for women looking to reduce alcohol consumption? Yes, platforms like Monument offer support groups and resources specifically tailored for women looking to change their relationship with alcohol.


  1. “Alcohol-related deaths increasing in the United States,” Accessed Jun. 15, 2024. 
  2. “More women in the U.S. are drinking themselves to death, research finds,” Accessed Jun. 15, 2024.
  3. “Women Now Drink As Much As Men — Not So Much For Pleasure, But To Cope,” Accessed Jun. 12, 2024.
  4. “Trends in Alcohol-Related Deaths by Sex in the US, 1999-2020, “ Accessed Jun. 14, 2024.
  5. “Complications From Alcohol Use Are Rising Among Women,,becoming%20more%20common%20among%20women.” Accessed Jun. 18, 2024.
  6. “Women and Alcohol,,greater%20intoxication%20for%20the%20woman.” Accessed Jun. 13, 2024. 
  7. “Gender Differences in Moderate Drinking Effects,” Accessed Jun. 12, 2024. 
  8. “Alcohol and Liver Function in Women,” Accessed Jun. 11, 2024. 
  9. “Alcohol’s Effects on Breast Cancer in Women,” Accessed Jun. 13, 2014. 
  10. “Gender Differences in Response to Emotional Stress: An Assessment Across Subjective, Behavioral, and Physiological Domains and Relations to Alcohol Craving,” Accessed Jun. 15, 2024.
  11. “More women are dying from alcohol. No, it’s not because of ‘mommy wine culture’, “Accessed Jun. 15, 2024.

About the Author

Avatar photoMonument is an online platform dedicated to helping individuals cut back or quit drinking alcohol through evidence-based treatment and compassionate care. We connect our members to an anonymous community, therapist-moderated support groups, and a comprehensive collection of resources to provide the support and information they deserve. For those seeking medical treatment, Monument introduces members to licensed physicians and specialized therapists who work together to develop personalized treatment plans tailored to each individual's unique goals. Our services are not only research-based but also affordable and accessible, ensuring that a healthy relationship with alcohol is attainable and celebrated by all. Monument is proud to be contracted with major health care payers such as UnitedHealthcare, Aetna, and Cigna, making our services in-network and available to a wide range of individuals seeking support. Monument's clinical operations are overseen by a well-experienced medical team comprising leading experts in the field of addiction medicine. Our medical team is led by Dr. Abe Malkin, MD MBA who's team has an extensive background in treating alcohol use disorder (AUD) and are dedicated to providing the highest quality care. At Monument, we understand that each individual's journey with alcohol is unique. That's why we offer a holistic approach to treatment that includes. FDA-Approved Medications: Prescribed by our licensed physicians, these medications help reduce cravings and support sobriety or moderation. We only prescribe effective, non-controlled medications. Specialized Therapy: Our therapists are experts in addiction treatment and provide personalized counseling to address the underlying causes of unhealthy drinking behaviors. Support Groups: Led by professional therapists, our support groups offer a safe space for members to share their experiences, gain insights, and build a supportive community. Resources and Tools: We provide access to a wealth of resources, including articles, webinars, and self-assessment tools to help members stay informed and motivated on their journey.