Women and alcohol

Alcohol use among women can lead to many long-term health issues.

Women and men metabolize alcohol differently, creating significant differences in the way in which men and women respond to alcohol.

Alcohol is Canada’s drug of choice

Recent data from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse shows that women are beginning to use and misuse alcohol at levels similar to men. The alcohol industry and advertisers are targeting women with fruity ‘starter beverages’ and the promise of a glamorous lifestyle.

As women balance multiple roles and responsibilities, they may experience higher or more frequent stressors than usual. Many women also use alcohol as a way to cope with violence experienced as children or adults. While a small amount of alcohol may result in short-term stress relief, using alcohol does not address the root causes of the stress. Repeated use of alcohol to reduce feelings of stress may increase anxiety levels and lead to dependence on alcohol.

Health impacts for women

For younger females, using alcohol puts them at risk of serious health conditions. Chronic, heavy drinking during adolescence and the young adult years can lead to a significant compromise in bone quality and may increase a woman’s risk of osteoporosis later in life. Use of alcohol in adolescence can also disrupt a woman’s natural menstrual cycle and reproductive function.

For elderly women, it takes less alcohol to experience the same effects compared to younger women. They should consider this factor when making decisions about their alcohol use.

Long-term heavy use of alcohol among women leads to various long-term health issues, including:

Alcohol use in women contributes to the more rapid development of:

These health problems are even worse if women smoke or use other substances and if they are exposed to environmental toxins.

Why the difference between men and women?

We know about some of the risks related to using alcohol, but because women’s bodies are different from men’s, some of those risks are also different. Women and men metabolize alcohol differently, creating significant differences in the way in which men and women respond to alcohol. The following mechanisms help to explain these differences:


This item was last modified on September 20, 2016