Middle-aged women drink more alcohol than any other age group, according to a Queensland University of Technology study. Researcher Hanna Watling says 13 percent of women aged 45 to 59 are drinking an average of more than two glasses of wine daily, which could be placing them at risk of serious illness. A survey concluded July 1 to find out why more middle-aged women are turning to the bottle.
"We're hoping to understand a bit more about what's going on for this particular group of drinkers and why it is they tend to turn to alcohol in this sort of way," says Watling. "When we understand more about what's going on for this particular group of drinkers we might be able to develop interventions that are tailored to their specific needs and their specific circumstances."
Watling notes that earlier research found when women increased their drinking from two to three standard drinks a day (12 oz. beer, 1.5 oz. shot of liquor or 10 oz. wine), they more than tripled their lifetime risk of death from alcoholism and other alcohol-related diseases. Alcohol is a carcinogen and the only known dietary connection to increased breast cancer risk. Alcohol use contributes to cardiovascular disease and is the primary or secondary cause of more than 60 other illnesses. It also increases the likelihood of becoming a violence and/or accident statistic. It is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming more than 88,000 lives annually.
The book, Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud, notes that “alcoholics and non-alcoholics alike drink for the same reason: It relieves stress. Alcoholics can't drink safely. Medically, non-alcoholics can't either, without increasing other health risks.”
"Alcohol also becomes a way of dealing with the stresses of busy lives such as family worries, work pressures or social commitments,” according to the Australian study's summary. Watling adds researchers are concerned that women who drink moderately often may end up consuming a larger volume of alcohol than those who drink heavily but less frequently.
The study suggests that for women in their 40s and 50s, drinking is not about getting drunk. "Heavy drinking is more common among young women in their late teens and 20s, but as they age, women tend to abandon binge drinking for less heavy but more frequent levels of alcohol consumption," she said. "Instead, it's more that alcohol becomes a greater part of everyday life as you age, for example having a wine with dinner or in front of the TV," she said.