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Childless Women Aged 35 At Highest Risk Of Binge Drinking, Study Finds

Delaying motherhood for career pursuits and social media culture driving increased alcohol use in middle-aged women

Childless women aged 35 are at the highest risk of binge drinking, according to a new study.

Researchers found that a newer generation of college-educated women who have delayed childhood to pursue a career that are most likely to binge – and those without children are most at risk.

The phenomenon has occurred as more women put off motherhood, which normally leads to a reduction in drinking.

However, even mothers are at risk with the rise of “wine o’clock” culture telling them it’s okay to drink to relieve child-induced stress.

Researchers from Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) concluded that women who turned 35 in recent years, as well as women who have not had children by age 35, are the subgroups of women at the highest risk of binge drinking and having alcohol use disorder (AUD) symptoms.

The study, published in the journal Addiction, is the first to consider the impact of delayed parenting on excessive alcohol use among newer generations of middle-aged women.

Study lead author Dr. Rachel Sayko Adams, a research associate professor of health law, policy and management, said: “Because more women are delaying having children a growing proportion of women fall into the highest risk group.

Researchers found that a newer generation of college-educated women who have delayed childhood to pursue a career that are most likely to binge – and those without children are most at risk. PHOTO  BY KETUT SUBIYANTO/PEXELS 

“This growing prevalence of heavy drinking is exacerbated given that excessive alcohol use is increasing overall for middle-aged women in more recent cohorts.

“Therefore, at-risk alcohol use and consequences are expected to continue increasing in future years, if not addressed.”

Compared to men, bingeing women fared worse with an increased risk for liver disease, alcohol-related injuries and breast cancer, along with sharper increases in alcohol-related mortality.

The team used data from 10,000 women who took part in Monitoring the Future, an annual, ongoing survey of high school students in the U.S.

The women completed a survey at age 35 between 1993 and 2019 in which they were asked about their parental status, age of first-time parenting, and whether they engaged in binge drinking, defined as consuming four or more drinks in one setting in the past two weeks, or developed AUD symptoms in the past five years.

Women who turned 35 between 2018 and 2019 were nearly 60 percent more likely to binge drink or report AUD symptoms than women who turned 35 between 1993 and 1997.

The trend towards parenting at older ages was evident, as only 39 percent of women in the 2018-2019 cohort had children before age 30, compared to 54 percent of women in the 1993-1997 cohort.

The findings showed that the most recent group of 35-year-old women were nearly twice as likely to complete four years of college than the 35-year-olds in the 1990s.

And the drinking culture is becoming more prevalent in women of that age who are mothers as well as childless.

The team believes this might be driven by the ‘wine o’clock’ social media culture that encourages moms to drink to cope with motherhood.

Study senior author Dr. Katherine Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, said: “Alcohol industry messages around drinking for stress relief and enjoyment have always been part of the industry’s advertising strategy, and we’ve seen this emerge on social media platforms, particularly geared towards people who parent.

“Promotion of alcohol use for moms to deal with the stresses of motherhood in Facebook and Instagram groups have common hashtags such as #winemom, #sendwine, and #mommyjuice.

“Simultaneously, there has been a rapid increase in alcohol products targeting middle-aged women such as low-calorie seltzers, pink beverages, and expressions such as ‘rosé all day.’”

Dr. Adams added. “The potential consequences of ‘wine mom’ culture may be that normalizing drinking to cope with the stresses of motherhood is risky.

“Studies have shown that drinking to cope with stress increases the risk for AUD.

“More research is needed to understand the impacts that social media messages and groups targeting women have on women’s drinking behaviors, as well as the role of alcohol products targeting women.

“More support for women who parent, such as facilitating social connections and increasing support for workplace mothers, may reduce drinking to cope with the stresses of motherhood.

“Efforts should be made to improve access to AUD treatment for women and mothers, including addressing stigma, increasing women-focused treatment settings, and expanding flexible treatment options.”

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

Edited by Saba Fatima and Asad Ali

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