(Photo from Wall Street Journal, June 22, 2013)
At a time when I hear many more young women (teens) drinking more and more, it was surprising to read this article’s title, “Why She Drinks” in The Wall Street Journal June 22, 2013. You may want to go online and read the entire article. Though this article is four years old, alas, it is still worth considering.
I’ve been thinking about what to make of the drinking trend in teen girls for a number of years. When statistics tell us that drinking goes hand-in-hand with everything we DON’T want for our daughters, how are they “making sense” of doing it anyway, and in record amounts? I wonder if among her reasons might be that
- it’s a move toward “keeping up with the boys” like she does in sports;
- she feels so “equal” that she is ignorant of her physical differences which make drinking’s impact different for her;
- she is feeling so much more pressure to “make something” of her life that getting drunk feels like a welcome relief;
- she feels shy and uncertain and alcohol offers “liquid confidence”;
- she’s been encouraged to take risks, to venture out, and that binging is a new risk.
But one thing I didn’t really think about is the possible role that her mom’s or aunt’s drinking example might be playing. So this article on the change of drinking patterns in women provided a whole new perspective. Give this a thought:
- In the nine years between 1998 and 2007, the number of women arrested for drunken driving rose 30%, while male arrests dropped more than 7%;
- Between 1999 and 2008, the number of young women who showed up in emergency rooms for being dangerously intoxicated rose by 52%. The rate for young men rose just 9%;
- Binge drinking is having four or more drinks for women or five or more for men within two hours;
- While the greatest number, 24%, of binge-drinking women are college-age, 10% of women between 45 and 64 said they binge drink— so did 3% of women older than 65;
- Women are more vulnerable than men to alcohol’s toxic effects. Their bodies have more fat, which retains alcohol, and less water, which dilutes it, so women drinking the same amount as men their size and weight become intoxicated more quickly;
- One half of rape cases occur when the young victim is drunk; “too intoxicated to give consent” is the chilling description.
So, how do we help our daughters? Let’s begin by facing squarely our own (adults) changing behaviors, acknowledging our impact as role models. We need to take a long, analytical look at stress and expectations on us and on our daughters, asking “at what cost?” Next, let’s remember that our very biology as women makes drinking different/riskier for us…this is NOT an issue of equality but of basic biochemistry. Finally, we need to speak with our girls about their safety, about sobriety’s notable contribution. Maybe our conversation includes a story since most of us have valuable experience in the department.
Alas, the question, “Why she drinks,” is as much about us as it is about our girls.
As ever, I welcome your comments.