Are Social Pressures Making Women Drink More?

By Kelly Burch 03/11/19

A recent op-ed examined some of the reasons why women are drinking more alcohol than ever before.

women drinking cocktails

Drinking used to be thought of as a boys’ club activity, and men have traditionally used alcohol at higher rates than women. However, in recent decades, women’s drinking habits have increased dramatically, and social factors may be the cause. 

According to the CDC, the percentage of American women who drink more than once a week has increased dramatically, from 45% in 2002 to 67%. 

Writing for The Bold Italic, Ginny Hogan examined the social pressures that may be affecting women's drinking behaviors. 

“The reality is that women often drink for different reasons than men do, and it’s not a stretch to think that those reasons often stem from social pressures that women face but men don’t,” Hogan writes. 

Many women feel pressured to relax, even as they deal with higher levels of anxiety than men. Rather than revealing that stress to the people around them, many women drink to mask it, Hogan observes. 

“When we put social pressure on women to not ever appear stressed or anxious, I worry that we instead make alcohol a more appealing option,” Hogan writes. 

In addition, alcohol has become a bonding activity in many female social groups, whether they are high-powered career women or stay-at-home moms. 

“Society tends to admire women who can play hard and work hard— to be cheerful and warm even in the face of negative surroundings or working conditions,” Hogan writes. 

In popular culture, successful women are often shown sipping a drink. 

“Tumblers of brandy, whiskey sours and fishbowls of merlot are synonymous with female glass-ceiling-smashing in TV shows like The Good Fight, The Good Wife, Scandal, Killing Eve, The Killing; I honestly can’t think of a successful female protagonist on TV who isn’t a hard drinker,” said Catherine Gray, author of The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober.

Finally, dating while sober can put even more pressure on women. 

“I definitely feel like not drinking ups the stakes for going on a date with me—if getting a drink is the most casual meet-up, it’s like, ‘I’m sorry, you need to commit to coffee and a day date, and I’m now occupying your weekend,’” comedian Molly Brown told Hogan. 

Ultimately, pushing back on some of these social pressures could be a way to help women reduce their drinking, if that’s something they desire, Hogan writes. 

“I want women to feel OK being in bad moods, to speak up if someone is mistreating them, to be comfortable with boring their date and to turn down happy-hour invitations. If women are able to do this more often, I wonder if we could use alcohol as a way to enhance our lives instead of often suppressing them,” she wrote. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.