From popular culture to the real world, no matter where you look there’s a good chance people will say men drink more than women. While this may be the case, a recent analysis, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research has found the gap between men and women’s drinking levels is diminishing.

“We found that over that period of time, differences in measures such as current drinking, number of drinking days per month, reaching criteria for an alcohol use disorder, and driving under the influence of alcohol in the past year, all narrowed for females and males,” lead author  Dr. Aaron White, NIAAA’s senior scientific advisor to the director, said in a statement. “Males still consume more alcohol, but the differences between men and women are diminishing.”

For the study, researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) looked at data from the yearly National Survey on Drug Use and Health, which involves about 70,000 people each year. After reviewing results from the years 2002 to 2012, they found difference in rates of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms between men and women had slowly, but surely, shrunk.

Overall, there was a slight increase in the percentage of women who drank over the past 30 days, while the percentage of men who had an alcoholic beverage in that same time frame dropped. The researchers also found women drank 7.3 days per month in 2012, an increase over the 6.8 days per month in 2002. Men, conversely, saw a drop in drinking from 9.9 days a month in 2002 to 9.5 days in 2012.

Binge drinking among 18- to 25-year-old college students didn’t change over the course of the decade, the study found. Binge drinking is defined as having four drinks within two hours for women and five drinks within two hours for men. When it came to 18- to 25-year-olds who weren’t in college, the researchers found binge drinking actually increased. Again, they found there was a significant increase in female binge drinking and a significant decrease in men who binge drank.

The researchers could not find any direct reason regarding why the alcohol consumption gap between men and women closed over the decade despite factoring in marital status, employment, and pregnancy. They concluded their analysis saying more research is needed to understand why these changes occurred, what caused them, and whether their results will be useful toward prevention and treatment efforts.

Source: White A, et al. Converging Patterns of Alcohol Use and Related Outcomes Among Females and Males in the United States, 2002 to 2012. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. 2015.

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