Drinking wine has now become a fashionable thing to do where a glass or two is now a daily ingrained habit for some women. While a glass of wine is no harm, research in Ireland is showing that women are drinking more, and more often than previous generations. The results of this is that increased numbers women are presenting to services with alcohol-related conditions such as liver cirrhosis, liver disease and alcohol related cancers.

Now, this is not a discussion about the evils of alcohol, but we do need to have a conversation about why women are drinking the way they do. How has it come to this and how is it that women are nearly out drinking men in today’s society?

In general, Ireland’s relationship with alcohol has been fraught with problems. Internationally the stereotypical view of an Irish person is a ‘falling down’ drunk person. But a new trend is emerging, where young girls and women are developing an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

What is the Evidence Showing?

  • Our teenage girls are drinking as much as their male peers.

  • Women are more vulnerable to health issues as their body’s process alcohol differently.

  • A women only needs 4 standard drinks (about half a bottle of wine) a day to increase health risks.

  • Binge drinking has become the norm with wine and spirits more popular among women.

  • Drinking at home is more popular so pub measures don’t count and there’s no closing time!

  • Women may not be dependent on alcohol but they have developed a habit of drinking alcohol regularly.

  • Many women are unaware of how much they are drinking and the possible risks of health problems.

Why has Women’s Drinking habits Changed?

In previous generations, women stayed at home and reared the children. If they worked they gave up their job once they got married. The only place alcohol was sold was in the pub and it was generally frowned upon if a women went into the pub. Basically, women didn’t have the access to alcohol that they do now. Now I am glad to say that times have changed and women now have the freedom they greatly deserve. We are no longer chained to the kitchen sink!! But, as this isn’t a blog about feminism, I’ll go back to discussing why our relationship with alcohol has changed.

Pricing and Marketing of alcohol.

Ireland is one of the cheapest countries in Europe to buy alcohol. You can now get a bottle of wine for as cheap as €5. It is sold in pubs, off licenses, shops and petrol stations making it freely available. It has become the norm to buy a few bottles of wine with the weekly shopping. The drink industry uses all sorts of powerful social media, marketing and advertising strategies to portray drinking wine and alcohol as sophisticated and trendy.

Women in the Workforce

Nowadays more and more women are in the work force and have the added pressure of balancing childcare, work and home life. For some reason, society puts all the responsibility of childcare arrangements on women. I have often been asked how do I cope with working full time and having a child (truth is its hard work!) Nobody asks my husband this question. Why is that?

Women in the Home.

The role of a stay at home mums has also changed. Now children have a lot more freedom (I often think my son has a better social life than I do!). Between school runs, after school clubs, football training, birthday parties etc., Mums are often like a taxi service where their day is spent rushing from one collection to another, constantly watching the clock. If the children are still at home Mum is care giver, teacher, nurse and referee all rolled into one. This busy schedule can often be coupled with feelings of isolation and stress.

Women and Self Image

We are our own worst critic. We pick at every aspect of ourselves. Whether we think we are too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, our hairs a mess, we don’t like the shape of our nose, the list is endless. At home, we put ourselves under pressure to be the perfect mother and partner. At work, women are increasingly likely to apply for more senior roles (and so they should!) but research has shown that they need to work harder and achieve more than men to get these roles.

But women wanted this I hear you say and that’s true, they wanted to be treated as equal. The feminist movement brought about vast changes in women’s role in society and this was greatly needed.

But has it come at too high a cost for some women? Women are expected to be the perfect mum, partner and work colleague. All this added stress has led to women having a glass or two of wine to relax and unwind. While this in itself isn’t an issue, for some women the only way of relaxing is with a few glasses of wine. This has resulted in some women drinking alcohol more frequently and in increasing amounts which is leading to serious health issues.

Best Wishes,

Eileen Foley

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