Alcohol consumption of the middle-aged woman

New research from Edith Cowan University (ECU) say that women aged 50-70 are more likely than younger women to consume alcohol at levels that exceed low risk drinking guidelines.

Many middle-aged and young-old women who consume alcohol at high risk levels tend to perceive their drinking as normal and acceptable, so long as they appear respectable and in control.

The study investigated the social construction of alcohol use among 49 women aged 50 to 69 in Denmark and Australia.

Key findings:

  • Women place more importance on appearing to be in control, behaving respectably, social pleasure and feeling liberated, than the quantity of alcohol consumed or potential health risks.
  • While some women reported reducing their drinking due to health concerns, others suggested that positive health behaviours such as exercise, served to ‘neutralise’ alcohol-related health risks.
  • Health advice and interventions relating to middle-aged and young-old women’s drinking practices need to acknowledge that women may socially construct their drinking practices to prioritise matters other than biomedical impacts of alcohol.

ECU’s School of Medical and Health Sciences, Dr Julie Dare says “In Australia, younger women are starting to drink less, their rates have declined, but the proportion of women aged 60 and older drinking at levels that exceed single occasion guidelines (more than four standard drinks on a single occasion) has increased.

“Similar trends are evident in Denmark and the United Kingdom.”

The paper “Women of my age tend to drink”: the social construction of alcohol use by Australian and Danish women aged 50-70 years, is published in the journal of Sociology of Health & Illness.