Why is Binge Drinking on the Rise for Women?

Middle aged woman is drinking wine

Although men still misuse alcohol at a rate higher than women, new research indicates that the gap is closing. A study published in PLOS Medicine and reported on in U.S. News brought the spotlight onto this concerning issue. Why are the statistics relating to binge drinking and heavy drinking on the part of women on the rise?

And even more importantly, what can we do about it?

Women, Men and Alcohol Consumption

That question is a difficult one to answer. According to the research, the rate of binge drinking among childless females in their early 30s has doubled. But the rate of alcohol misuse among middle-aged mothers and fatherless men has also gone up. In fact, the only age group observed in the cited study that showed a drop in alcohol consumption was young fathers ages 18 to 29.

From the PLOS Medicine study:

“This study demonstrated that trends in binge and heavy drinking over time were not differential by parenting status for women; rather, declines and increases over time were mainly attributable to sex and age.”

“This study demonstrated that trends in binge and heavy drinking over time were not differential by parenting status for women; rather, declines and increases over time were mainly attributable to sex and age. Women, both with and without children, are increasing binge and heavy drinking; men, regardless of parenting status, and women without children consumed more alcohol than women with children. Binge drinking has increased among both sexes.”

Sarah McKetta, from the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, commented on the study’s findings:

“Although heavy drinking has either decreased or stabilized for most groups, binge drinking is still common and is becoming even more prevalent. It’s still unknown why women are increasing drinking relative to men…

How Do We Solve the Problem?

It’s more likely that living conditions for almost all Americans are declining. We see this in decreasing life expectancy, increasing economic struggles, and other issues.

While the reasons for why people become addicted to substances might be personal and unique to that individual, the solutions for preventing and reversing addiction are pretty uniform.

  • Prevention. Like as is the case with most health and behavioral problems, it is much easier to prevent a problem from happening than it is to treat a problem once it has already begun. That’s why prevention is strongly encouraged in the addiction space. If people are educated and informed on the harms, risks, and dangers of addictive substances, they are much less likely to use those substances. And if people are helped through the struggles and difficulties they face in life in a positive, healthy way, they will be less likely to drink alcohol as a coping mechanism.
  • Rehabilitation. When someone struggles with a drug problem or drinking problem, having them enter residential addiction treatment is the best and safest route for effectively addressing that problem. Residential drug treatment centers that offer long-term programs can assist people in overcoming both the physical and behavioral aspects of addiction.
  • Life skills. People turn to drugs and alcohol because of some underlying issue or issues that they could not resolve in a healthy manner. Past experiences are often a factor. Helping someone who suffers from a drug habit or a drinking problem is going to involve teaching them how to handle situations, circumstances, and conditions in life that may have incited them to drink or use drugs in the past.
  • Problem-solving. People turn to drugs and alcohol because they see it as a solution to a problem. In all reality, drug use and heavy drinking is never a solution for anything. Such activities always make conditions in life far worse. That’s why part of the recovery process means learning how to correctly solve problems, learning how to effectively resolve severe conditions in life, and how to do all of that without seeking out mind-altering substances as a coping mechanism.

Rather than spending a lot of time trying to figure out why middle-aged, childless women are binge drinking more, it seems that a better use of our time and efforts would be spent in treating those who are currently addicted, and in preventing others from falling prey to similar habits.

There is some suggestion in the studies cited above that women who make it into their mid-30s without having kids are more likely to binge drink. But that cannot serve to indicate that there is a direct cause and effect relationship between childlessness and binge drinking—a correlation, indeed, but not a cause and effect relationship.

The focus should be on getting people help when they struggle with substances. For those who are not addicted, the focus needs to be on making sure that such individuals have the proper life skills, healthy groups, problem-solving skills, communication skills, and so forth to lead a healthy and happy life. If we can work towards and create a better life and more ideal living conditions, people, middle-aged women included, will be far less likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, MCAP, RAS



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.