Are alcohol abuse and alcoholism more harmful to women than to men?

Paul  Hokemeyer, PhD
Marriage & Family Therapy
There are three key physical factors that make women more susceptible to alcohol related problems then men. The first deals with an enzyme in our body that breaks down alcohol in our systems. Women have less of this enzyme then men. As a result, alcohol stays in a women’s body longer and is absorbed into their blood stream faster and more intensely. In addition, compared to men, women have less water and more fat in their bodies. This combination results in their bodies holding a higher concentration of alcohol in their organs for a longer period of time then men.
Howard J. Shaffer, PhD
Addiction Medicine
About 7% to 12% of women abuse alcohol, compared with 20% of men. Yet women who abuse alcohol are more likely than men to damage their health and well-being and to die as a result of their drinking. For example, women who abuse or are dependent on alcohol are more vulnerable than men to developing alcoholic liver disease, such as hepatitis, and more likely to die from liver cirrhosis. Women are more likely than men to suffer alcohol-induced brain damage, such as loss of mental function and reduced brain size. In addition, a woman's lifetime risk of breast cancer increases in parallel with the amount of alcohol she drinks, from almost nine in 100 for nondrinkers, to just over 13 in 100 for heavy drinkers (six drinks per day).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.