High Alcohol Use Among College Students May Be More Damaging to Women Than Men

A new study led by Lina Begdashe, assistant professor of health and wellness studies at Binghamton University of the State University of New York System, finds that women college students appear to be more affected by high alcohol use than men, which may lead to less interest in academics.

Researchers compared neurobehaviors and academic effort among college students with low alcohol use with those of high alcohol consumption. They found that both young men and women exhibit common behavioral responses to high alcohol use such as abuse of other substances and risk-taking. These behaviors are regulated by the limbic system of the brain. However, the cognitive functions for high alcohol use among young men and women were different.

“Cognitive aptitudes of young women appear to be more affected than for men with high alcohol use,” said Dr. Begdache. “Young women reported generally less interest in academic work and performance than young men. The latter reported more risky behaviors, such as being arrested, from excessive drinking. We also found that young women are more likely to depend on alcohol to improve mental well-being, which is also concerning, as they may self-medicate through drinking.”

The authors note that one reason for the difference seen is the differential metabolism of alcohol. Women metabolize alcohol at a slower rate, therefore, they are more likely to feel the effect of alcohol. Consequently, their brain is more likely to accumulate a toxic metabolite, acetaldehyde, which may be altering brain chemistry further to add to the differential behaviors identified in this study.

Dr. Begdache earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics from the American University of Beirut. She holds a master’s degree in nutrition sciences from the University at Buffalo of the State University of New York System and a doctorate in cell and molecular biology from Binghamton University.

The full study, “Common and Differential Associations Between Levels of Alcohol Drinking, Gender-Specific Neurobehaviors and Mental Distress in College Students,” was published in the journal Trends in Neuroscience and Education. It may be accessed here.


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