The rise of binge drinking among women


For many Canadian women a few drinks after work has become quite a few drinks. The number of female binge drinkers is increasing. Critics blame liquor marketers, in part, for targeting women, possibly setting them up for serious health problems later in life.

Many young Canadian women find the occasional binge quite appealing. Substance abuse experts call it 'risky drinking' and the latest numbers from Statistics Canada's Canadian Community Health Survey suggest nearly thirty per cent more women engage in risky drinking than a decade ago. Risky drinking is measured here as 5 or more drinks at a sitting, once or more a month.

Among women of prime childbearing years, it's even higher - one fifth of women 25 to 34 drink riskily, up by more than a third in the last decade.

Women still haven't caught up to men in alcohol consumption. But experts are worried. Gerald Thomas is a senior researcher with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. He is the one who calculated the increases after looking at Statistics Canada numbers.

"There is a very important distinction between how alcohol affects men and women. For one thing women tend to be more sensitive to alcohol overall, so it takes less to create problems for them than it does for men. But there are other things like breast cancer, FASD, that really kind of are unique to women. I mean, there's no doubt that a woman can build her tolerance up and drink like men can, but in the long run, your effects, the negative health effects, will be stronger for you given the same dose of alcohol no matter what".

Gerald Thomas, Sr. Researcher, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse

Writer Jen McNeely

Risky drinking isn't always alcoholism, but what starts as binging can lead to more serious drinking. Jen McNeely is a 33-year-old writer in Toronto.

Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth, David Jernigan

From fruity spritzers to marshmallow flavoured vodka, brands targeted at women proliferate. Some experts say that's one of the reasons why there are more risky drinkers.

David Jernigan is the director of the Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth studies at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He was in Baltimore.

Ann Dowsett Johnston / Dee Brun

It's not clear if we're paying too much attention to women binging, or not enough.
Ann Dowsett Johnston is a journalist who has written a book about women and drinking, which is due out in September. She was in Toronto.

And Dee Brun is a mixologist, who crafts signature drinks for corporations. She calls herself the Cocktail Deeva

This segment was produced by The Current's Karin Marley.

Last Word - Author James Dawes

Later this week on The Current, we'll speak with author James Dawes. His new book is Evil Men, an attempt at trying to understand why people do evil things -- and how it might be stopped. Here he is describing his meeting with elderly Japanese war criminals who committed horrific crimes in China during the Second World War. James Dawes gets today's Last Word.

Other segments from today's show:

Allegations of misappropriated funds to help Manitoba flood victims

What's really behind the Turkey protests?

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