Women and Alcohol Use

Updated on 3/10/2023

Even though women in the United States still consume less alcohol than men, with the growing popularity of girls’ nights out and wine mom culture, women are catching up fast. Women begin to experience problems related to alcohol consumption earlier than men. It is vital for women who want to get sober and need treatment to not wait to seek help.

Why are women drinking more alcohol in recent years?

There is no one definitive answer to the question of why there has been such an increase in the number of women consuming alcohol. There are a variety of factors that could play a role:

  • Changing societal norms and attitudes surrounding women drinking
  • Increased marketing of alcoholic beverages to women
  • Escalating stressors and expectations placed on women
  • Self-medicating due to mental health issues
  • Drinking to cope with trauma

Women face higher risks than men when drinking.

There are reasons women start to experience alcohol-related problems faster and at lower drinking levels than men. For one, women generally weigh less than men. Also, alcohol resides in body water and pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies than men. This results in a woman’s blood alcohol content (BAC) being higher than a man’s even if they drink the same amount. A higher BAC can result in a greater risk of harm.

Women are at higher risk for health problems related to long-term alcohol use.

Excessive drinking can cause health issues for anyone, but it can be especially detrimental to women’s health.

  • Liver damage: Women are more likely to develop alcohol-related hepatitis than men
  • Brain damage: Drinking alcohol can produce brain damage quicker in women than me
  • Heart disease: Even if they drink less alcohol, women are more likely than men to develop alcohol-related heart disease

COVID-19 influenced the drinking habits of women.

Excessive drinking is a common response to stressful situations and COVID-19 has brought extreme stressors in the form of long-term isolation, loss of income, death and grief. Women are also more likely to carry more of the burden of childcare and household chores at any time, but the pandemic has added management of remote learning and lack of childcare services to those stressors.

At the beginning of the pandemic, when shelter-in-place orders were issued, alcohol laws were relaxed and alcohol was even easier to access. For the first time, people in many states could have wine, beer and spirits delivered curbside or to their homes. The combination of pandemic-related stressors and the ease of access to alcohol have contributed to women increasing their alcohol consumption during this period.

Wine-mom culture has increased women’s drinking.

Wine-mom culture is all over social media, T-shirts, cards, decor, television and movies. Wine-mom culture promotes and even celebrates using alcohol as a coping mechanism. “Are you a stressed-out mom? Are your kids driving you bonkers? A bottle of wine or any alcohol to take the edge off” is the kind of marketing moms are being targeted with. A woman does not have to be a mom to buy into the culture though. This culture of celebrating the use of alcohol to cope with stress extends into stressful female-dominated professions such as nursing and teaching as well.

The allure of wine-mom culture is not just for stress relief and funny merchandise. Wine-mom culture creates an easy way for women to connect and bond over shared experiences. However, this culture can reinforce the idea of needing alcohol to connect, have a good time and relieve stress.

The wine-mom culture can be toxic because it can encourage unhealthy alcohol use patterns. It can also be triggering to women in recovery who are trying to maintain sobriety. There is the risk of sending a damaging message to children. It tells them that they are the reason their parents drink and it teaches unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Help is available for women who want to get sober.

Women are more likely to face barriers to accessing effective treatment than men:

  • Women are more likely to experience economic barriers than men
  • Anxiety and depression are more prevalent in women and can prevent them from accessing treatment
  • Family responsibilities are more likely to prevent women from attending treatment sessions than men
  • Women are more likely than men to feel shame and guilt about alcohol use, which may prevent them from seeking treatment
  • Women tend to seek treatment in primary care or mental health settings instead of specialized treatment facilities resulting in poorer outcomes

Improvements are being made. For years, the vast majority of research in the field of addiction medicine was based on men, but in recent years more research is being conducted related to women and substance use. Treatment facilities and providers are starting to take notice of and address the specific needs of women. Examples include:

  • Gender-specific treatment services
  • Groups with male and female co-leaders
  • Wraparound services such as parenting groups and childcare services to promote treatment continuation

Women who consume alcohol can face serious health problems earlier than men who drink. These negative effects occur even with lower levels of drinking in women. That is why it is so important to seek treatment for an alcohol use disorder promptly.  At Casa Palmera, our support does not end when you complete treatment and discharge. Call Casa Palmera today at (855) 508-0473 to learn more. 


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.