Older Women Perceive Their Alcohol Use Less Harmful Than It Is
A new study has found, alcohol harm is common among older women in Australia.
The study looked at the social construction of alcohol use among women aged 50 to 70 years in Australia and Denmark. In Australia and Denmark women of this age are more likely to consume alcohol above low-risk alcohol use guidelines.
The study found that despite their alcohol use being high, these women perceive it as normal. For example:
It has become part of the norm … it is something we do with our acquaintances, friends and families. That’s just something we do,” said one respondent, a 59 year old Danish woman, as per, News GP.
As long as they [women] don’t make a fool of themselves,” said another respondent, a 69 year old Australian women, as per, News GP.
Older women from both countries thought their alcohol use was normal as long as they thought they were in control, despite many of them consuming beyond the low-risk guidelines of two units of alcohol per day and no more than four units of alcohol in a single sitting. It has been proven that there is no safe level for alcohol consumption. The low risk guidelines are an attempt by governments to reduce harm.
Women in Australia also tend to think alcohol use is acceptable to deal with distress in life while the Danish women thought this was unacceptable.
The normalization of alcohol among older women is specifically concerning as women and older people are more sensitive to alcohol. It has been found that:
- Women may get addicted to substances faster than men using the same amount of the substance.
- Women may experience more physical effects of substances such as on the heart and blood vessels.
- There are different brain changes when women use drugs than when men do.
A report by IOGT-NTO found that increased sensitivity to alcohol in old age combined with the ageing process can increase risk of disease and accidents.
Therefore, harm for older women is increased because they are sensitive both women-specific and age-specific alcohol harm.