Archive Article: Young Women Now Drink Like Men.
February 16, 2009

First Broadcast on Friday 14th September 2001 on Radio 2GB’s Brian Wiltshire Program.

There is an area in which young women have acquired equality with young men – and it endangers their lives. Young women now drink like men.

Alcohol Awareness Week is now underway around Australia. I chair the NSW Network organizing a string of events to draw attention to the dangers of alcohol. While narcotic drugs get the publicity, the real killer in Australian society remains alcohol. Thus the annual Alcohol Awareness Week is designed to remain Australians that we need to keep up our efforts against alcohol.

The Salvation Army has just launched a very interesting survey sponsored by the EIG-Ansvar insurance company and conducted by the Roy Morgan Research company on the alcohol consumption habits of Australians. The survey builds on earlier ones conducted in 1992 and 1995 and so there is a basis for comparison and an opportunity to see the trends. Much of the survey makes grim reading.

First, there has been a huge increase in alcoholic consumption by women. In 1995, only 12 per cent of women had between six and 20 alcoholic drinks each week. Today 20 per cent of women consume that amount.

Second, the prevalence of “binge” drinking has exploded, with young women now just as likely as young men to drink to excess. Regular binge drinking can cause long-term physical damage to the stomach, liver and brain. There is also a very real and negative consequence of violence, sex and physical harm associated with excessive drinking. The Salvation Army is particularly concerned at the explosion in teenage binge drinking and supports the National Alcohol Campaign that distributes literature giving helpful advice to parents on how to communicate with teenagers about alcohol consumption.

Third, there is the issue of what is the “standard drink”. The Alcohol Awareness Network in NSW takes the view that no alcohol should be drunk. The Australian and State Governments, by contrast, recommend a policy of “harm minimization”. For example, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau suggests that men can have two drinks in the first hour, followed by one per hour after that. Women should consume one drink in the first hour followed by one an hour after that. As I say, the Alcohol Awareness Network prefers a formula that is less taxing on the memory – no drink at all.

However, what this survey shows is that two thirds of teenagers did not know what was a “standard drink” or how to follow the governmental advice on “harm minimization”. The survey showed that young people were drinking at such a high rate that it increased by 2,500 per cent the chance of crashing a car.

Fourth, the increase in female alcohol consumption creates an interesting gender imbalance. Young women drink far more than older women, but younger men far less than older men.

Therefore, the report does contain some good news. It seems that young men are smarter than their fathers’ generation. (Unfortunately, younger women are more stupid than their mothers’ generation).

Another interesting fact is that the proportion of men who in an average week do not drink has remained at about 25 per cent and for women that figure is 50 per cent. Thus a sizable slice of Australia remains off the alcohol.