A new study by Harvard Medical School finds college-age women binge drink more frequently than their male counterparts, possibly putting their health at greater risk than men when they do.
“We found that female college-student drinkers exceeded national drinking guidelines for weekly drinking more frequently than their male counterparts,” said said Bettina B. Hoeppner, Harvard Medical School assistant professor of psychology at the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Addiction Medicine.
“Weekly cut-offs are recommended to prevent long-term harmful effects due to alcohol, such as liver disease and breast cancer. By exceeding weekly limits more often than men, women are putting themselves at increased risk for experiencing such long-term effects."
The study, which was released Friday, asked 992 college students - 575 females and 417 males - to report their daily drinking habits on a biweekly basis, using web-based surveys throughout their first year of college.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has low-risk guidelines on alcohol consumption that differ for men and women. For men, it recommends no more than four drinks per day, and 14 drinks per week. For women, the recommendation is no more than three drinks per day, and seven drinks per week. “Recommended drinking limits are lower for women than for men because research to date has found that women experience alcohol-related problems at lower levels of alcohol consumption than men,” Hoeppner says.
The results showed that women exceeded weekly limits more frequently - 15 percent of weeks - than men - who over did it 12 percent of weeks.
Trends over time suggest that college students may be maturing out of heavy episodic drinking, but women may not mature out of harmful levels of weekly drinking, according to the study, which will be published in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.