Young Binge-Drinking Women Could Damage their Bones for Life

A group of young women drinking.

A new study on the effects of binge drinking has revealed a new and lasting danger associated with this activity. Binge drinking during one’s younger years has been shown to have a permanently damaging effect on the strength of a woman’s bones.

Definition: For a woman, binge drinking means downing four or more drinks in a couple of hours.

A young woman who only binge drinks once in a while will not suffer any great risk to bone health but when binge drinking is a regular activity, all that alcohol interferes with bone development. This effect was discovered in a study of bone density among 87 young adult women. Each one received bone scans to determine the density of their bone.

Those women in the study who binge-drank frequently had less bone density in their spines. Other factors that might have contributed to lower density were taken into consideration and only binge-drinking correlated with this loss of bone density.

Definition: Frequent binge drinking was defined as 115 episodes since the beginning of high school, or an average of two episodes per month.

But Wait, It Gets Worse

A 3D model of a bone affected by osteoporosis.

Women’s bones continue to develop mass until well after their teens. But if the process of building bone density is interrupted by excessive levels of alcohol during youth, these women may never achieve their ideal bone mass.

This means that when they start losing bone mass after menopause, they have less bone mass to lose. That could make them more prone to fractures of the spine, hip, wrist, arm, ribs or sacrum.

This danger holds true even if drinking stops. Once youthful binge drinking slows the development of strong, dense bones, that bone development never catches up to create normal bone mass.

How Many Teenaged Women Binge Drink?

Teens have a different pattern of drinking than adults do. Here’s a few statistics that illustrate these youthful drinking patterns.

  • When they drink, 58% of them are binge drinking.
  • Ninety percent of all alcohol consumed by young people is drunk during binge-drinking sessions.
  • While it used to be that more boys binge-drank than girls, these days, the numbers are nearly equal.

Of course, drinking increases every year in high school. According to the annual Monitoring the Future study of drug and alcohol use by youth:

  • 10.5% of ninth grade girls drink
  • 14.1% of tenth grade girls
  • 19.6% of eleventh grade girls
  • 23.8% of twelfth grade girls

And among those twelfth grade girls who drink, more than six out of ten are binge drinking.

Talking to Your Daughters

A mother and daughter talk about alcohol.

It’s very likely that it’s going to take mothers and fathers educating their daughters on this relationship between healthy bones and binge-drinking alcohol for young women to learn how they could be harming themselves. It’s very difficult for young people to foresee the problems that could befall them a few decades in the future. The lure of partying with friends and obliterating one’s cares with alcohol is much more immediate. Please share this information with young women who know who might need to know what could lie ahead.


Karen Hadley

For more than a decade, Karen has been researching and writing about drug trafficking, drug abuse, addiction and recovery. She has also studied and written about policy issues related to drug treatment.