Study Finds College-Educated Women Tend to Drink More Alcohol Than Their Less Educated Peers

According to a recent study from researchers at Iowa State University, the gap is shrinking between men and women who drink. In addition to increased rates of alcohol consumption among women, the study found variations in the amount and frequency women drink based on age, race, education, marital status, and other factors.

For their study, the research team examined data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979, which follows thousands of people starting as teens and into adulthood. They found that, overall, 52 percent of women reported drinking around seven days in the last month and averaged just over two drinks a day.

Additionally, the researchers found significant differences in drinking among women by race and ethnicity. The results found that 55 percent of White women drank within the last 30 days, compared to 38 percent of Black women and 46 percent of Hispanic women.

The researchers also found differences based on social and demographic characters. Married Black women drank less than single or cohabiting women, but the same was not found among White and Hispanic women. College-educated women across all groups were more likely to drink, and drank more days per month than less educated women. White and Black women living in urban areas drank more than those in rural areas, but this was not found among Hispanic women. Also, the results found that 26 percent of women who were moderate drinkers while their children were home became heavy drinkers after they left.

“Some of our findings really break down stereotypes, such as alcohol use is highest among poor women and underrepresented women,” said Susan Stewart, professor of sociology at Iowa State. “We found that not to be true. White women and women with more education and financial means have much higher rates of alcohol consumption.”

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol is the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States, with approximately 88,000 people dying every year from alcohol-related causes. The research team believes that their findings are important as they relate to the physical, mental, and emotional health issues associated with alcohol consumption.

“After decades of steady increases, women’s life expectancy has leveled off in the last five years partly as a result of increased alcohol consumption,” said Cassandra Dorius, assistant professor of human development and family studies at Iowa State. “As the main caretakers of children, aging parents and extended family members, women’s alcohol use can have lasting effects on the family.”

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