Drink to your health?
SANTA ROSA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  A Russian River Brewing Company customer takes a sip of the newly released Pliny the Younger triple IPA beer on February 7, 2014 in Santa Rosa, California.  Hundreds of people lined up hours before the opening of Russian River Brewing Co. to taste the 10th annual release of the wildly popular Pliny the Younger triple IPA beer that will only be available on tap from February 7th through February 20th. Craft beer aficionados rank Pliny the Younger as one of the top beers in the world. The craft beer sector of the beverage industry has grown from being a niche market into a fast growing 12 billion dollar business, as global breweries continue to purchase smaller regional craft breweries such this week's purchase of New York's Blue Point Brewing by AB Inbev. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:16
How alcohol affects your health
379350 06: A shot of tequila is poured September 28, 2000 at La Hacienda in El Paso, Texas. Up to 40 percent of the firms making Mexico's tequila may halt production because of a chronic shortage of their main raw ingredient, the cactus-like agave plant. With the increase of tequila's popularity the demand has past the amount of supply. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Newsmakers)
Now playing
00:58
US warns about tainted alcohol in Mexico (2017)
Now playing
01:14
US warns about tainted alcohol in Mexico
lead intv gupta alcohol heavy drinker _00023403.jpg
Now playing
03:00
What is considered as 'heavy drinking'?
wine glasses
Now playing
01:17
Drink this daily and you may live longer
Now playing
01:33
Could red wine help slow Alzheimer's?
palcohol powdered alcohol cohen orig_00001228.jpg
Now playing
01:19
What is Palcohol?
NIH Bar Lab_00030611.jpg
Now playing
03:27
Happy hour at NIH?

Story highlights

Women are drinking nearly as much alcohol as men, a new study finds

Understanding this trend can help target treatment, researcher said

CNN —  

Women are now drinking nearly as much alcohol as men, according to a new study.

The report, published in the medical journal BMJ Open, analyzed 4 million people born between 1891 and 2001 and found that, historically, men were more likely to drink alcohol, and in amounts that would damage their health.

Now, women are catching up, especially in more recent generations.

Early in the 20th century, men were more than twice as likely to drink than women and more than three times as likely to develop alcohol-related problems. But today, the two genders are about equal: Men born since the 1980s are only 1.1 times more likely to drink than than their female counterparts and 1.3 times more likely to consume alcohol in a way that is considered problematic.

The results came from the analysis of 68 international studies published between 1980 and 2014. The researchers grouped people by birth date to look at levels of alcohol consumption. Researchers looked at any use, including quantities and frequency, problematic uses such as binge drinking or heavy drinking, and the prevalence of associated problems.

“There had been several reports of sex convergence regarding alcohol consumption, but nobody had confirmed that, which is why we decided to look over global studies published throughout the years to see if we could prove that there had been a shift,” said researcher Katherine M. Keyes, an associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University.

The study did not test why the gap is closing between men and women when it comes to alcohol, but researchers noted that changing traditional gender roles for women could be one explanation.

Long-term excessive alcohol consumption is linked to many health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease and digestive problems, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Understanding how its consumption has evolved is essential to develop effective available treatments,” Keyes said.

More research needed globally

The majority of studies analyzed were conducted in North America and Europe, so the results might reflect a Western trend.

“We looked at all the available countries,” Keyes said, “but more research is needed globally. More population studies are needed.”

Follow CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter

  • See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

    Spreading that message is important, she said.

    “The essential thing to highlight is that there is treatment available for anyone suffering with alcohol abuse, both men and women. However, the focus here is women because there seems to be a stigma associated with women who drink and need help, as alcohol consumption is viewed as a male phenomenon,” Keyes said.

    “Gender differences are diminishing, so public health practitioners need to bring women into the fold when it comes to alcohol abuse.”

    For the researchers, the message is clear: Alcohol use and alcohol use disorders cannot continue to be viewed as phenomenon only among men.

    “If (women) are having problem, they need to reach out,” Keyes said. “They are not alone.”