Women Get "Tipsy" While Men Get "Hammered"

Women Get "Tipsy" While Men Get "Hammered"

By Mei Schultz 07/11/13

Studies suggest levels of drunkenness are exaggerated in men and downplayed in women.

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When describing levels of drunkenness, men tend to use words suggesting heavy intoxication—like “hammered” or "wasted"—while women prefer words like “buzzed” or "tipsy"—according to a study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Previous research found that women tend to describe themselves as only slightly drunk, while men tend to describe themselves as more drunk—regardless of how drunk they actually are. And a recent study conducted by Ash Levitt, a scientist at the Research Institute on Addictions at SUNY University at Buffalo, found that the same discrepancy applies when describing other peoples' levels of intoxication. Levitt surveyed 145 undergraduates’ differing responses to male and female drinking by reading them vignettes depicting drunken behavior. "Moderate intoxication terms such as 'tipsy' were applied to female vignette characters more than male characters, even when female characters were heavily intoxicated,” writes Levitt. By contrast, he says: "heavy intoxication terms such as 'wasted' were applied to male vignette characters more than female characters."

Levitt theorized that these results may reflect the differing social expectations for men and women when it comes to drinking: women are expected to imbibe more moderately, while excessive drinking and intoxication is more acceptable among men. Mark Wood, professor of psychology at the University of Rhode Island, points out that these assumptions can have dangerous real world consequences for both genders. "Clinicians such as psychologists and counselors could use this knowledge to work with men to help correct notions that being 'hammered' is both typical and acceptable," says Wood, "and with women to increase awareness about the potential dangers of underestimating their own or others' degree of intoxication."

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Mei Schultz is a copy editor, journalist and uUndergraduate Research Assistant at Columbia University Medical Center. You can find her on Linkedin.

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