College Women Drink More Than Men, Study Says

A new study from Harvard Medical School says that women exceed recommended alcohol limits more than men.

By | Hub Health |
College women can really knock them back, apparently. Drinking photo via Shutterstock.

College women can really knock them back, apparently. Drinking photo via Shutterstock.

If you think it’s just the men doing kegstands and throwing back shots at college parties, think again. A new study by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers finds that college-age women drink more frequently than their male classmates, and by doing so, are increasing their risk for health problems down the road. The study will be published in the October 2013 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

“We found that female college-student drinkers exceeded national drinking guidelines for weekly drinking more frequently than their male counterparts,” says Bettina B. Hoeppner, the study’s author and assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, who also works at the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Addiction Medicine. “Weekly cut-offs are recommended to prevent long-term harmful effects due to alcohol, such as liver disease and breast cancer. By exceeding weekly limits more often than men, women are putting themselves at increased risk for experiencing such long-term effects.”

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has low-risk guidelines on alcohol consumption that differ for men and women. For men, it recommends no more than four drinks per day, and 14 drinks per week. For women, the recommendation is no more than three drinks per day, and seven drinks per week. “Recommended drinking limits are lower for women than for men because research to date has found that women experience alcohol-related problems at lower levels of alcohol consumption than men,” Hoeppner says.

The study says that college students do not adhere to these limits (shocker!) and that female college students that drink alcohol exceed the national drinking guidelines for weekly drinking more frequently than their male counterparts.

“These findings contribute to our understanding of how populations adhere to national drinking guidelines,” Hoeppner says. “Specifically, it examines college student drinkers, where adherence to weekly drinking limits has not been examined before. Generally, ‘binge drinking’ receives more attention when examining college student drinking. However, for long-term health, it is also important to examine the establishment of drinking patterns that may lead to long-term harmful effects, not just short-term effects.”