Until somewhat recently, data indicated that males were more likely to drink alcohol than females. However, the trend has shifted, and data now shows that women (and girls) ages 12-20 are drinking more alcohol than men (and boys).
In 2020, more females reported past-month alcohol use than boys and young men according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). What is behind this trend? Evidence suggests that increased struggles with anxiety and depression amongst adolescents, particularly teenage girls, is part of the issue.
Girls and young women can be more susceptible to internalizing stress, anxiety, and depression, and may turn to alcohol as a means of coping with these mental health issues. At Communities Confronting Substance Use & Addiction, in the context of our prevention education programming and in our support group for family members, we often see self-medicating for mental health issues as a reason for substance use.
According to studies conducted regarding the epidemiology of alcohol use and gender differences, girls with high levels of anxiety were more likely to use alcohol than boys, and to do so at younger ages. Due to the association of underage drinking and mental health conditions, girls and young women with these challenges need strong prevention assistance coupled with good general mental health support.
In addition, the fact that females differ biologically and physiologically from boys means that alcohol becomes more concentrated in the blood and girls have a higher risk for alcohol poisoning, blacking out, and other negative impairments. There have been studies done linking drinking alcohol to later increased risk in developing breast cancer and other long-term health consequences.
Having open and direct conversations with both your sons and your daughters about the dangers of substance use, educating our youth about risk factors for addiction such as the onset of early substance use, and supporting them as they transition into adulthood are all important factors in preventing the disease of addiction.
As we kick off Alcohol Awareness Month, this is an ideal time to have these important conversations and to increase our sensitivity and awareness of these issues in our community. At CCSA, we are committed to shining a light on the issues that impact our Jewish communities, to shatter the stigma around these challenges, so people can receive the support and help they need. Together we can stand strong and support those around us who too often suffer in silence.