Is Alcoholism More Prevalent in Males or Females?

While it might not always make headlines, alcohol use disorders (AUDs) represent a real problem in the U.S.  Current data shows that more than 6 percent or roughly 15 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder. And unless these individuals seek help, their deep-seated desire to consume alcohol will eventually have devastating consequences. And we only need to look at a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to get an idea of how likely they are to suffer such devastating consequences. According to the organization, between 2011 and 2015, excessive alcohol consumption played a role in an estimated 95,000 deaths in the U.S.

Today, things are still pretty bad, with separate studies showing that roughly 30 people in the U.S. die in alcohol-related car accidents every day while six are losing their lives every day due to alcohol poisoning.  Even if individuals with an alcohol use disorder are fortunate enough to avoid alcohol poisoning and alcohol-related accidents, many fall victim to health problems brought on by years of heavy drinking.  Some of the more notable ones include cancer, liver disease, and heart disease.

Are Alcohol Use Disorders More Common Among Men or Women?

While many men and women in the U.S. drink heavily, alcohol use disorders are considerably more common among men.  And there are plenty of studies that substantiate this disparity, one of which comes from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).  In the 2019 study, which looked at alcohol use disorders among individuals ages 12 and over, researchers noted that about 9 million or close to 7 percent of males had an alcohol use disorder compared to 5.5 million or roughly 4 percent of females.  It is pretty clear that alcoholism in the U.S. is more common among men than women.  However, when you look at the probability of developing alcohol-related health problems, women are worse off than men.  According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the following health problems are more likely to afflict women with an alcohol use disorder than men:

  • Anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Chronic dehydration
  • Impaired brain function
  • Increased risk of blackouts
  • Fertility issues
  • Liver disease
  • An increased risk of developing multiple cancers, including mouth, throat, esophagus, colon, liver, and breast cancer

Along with these various health problems, women with an alcohol use disorder are at high risk of suffering pregnancy complications, including fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) that can affect their baby.

Why Do More Men Than Women Struggle With Alcoholism?

Multiple studies show that consuming alcohol has a different effect on the male brain versus the female brain.  As a result, binge drinking and full-on alcohol use disorders are slightly more commonplace among men.  To better understand what alcohol does to the male brain, we should turn our attention to a study published by ScienceDaily, an online resource for news related to science and health.  According to the study data, even though men and women share many of the same physical signs of impairment when they consume alcohol, things are much different on the psychological and behavioral front when men drink too much versus when women drink too much.

When men drink alcohol, they often experience a markedly higher dopamine release than women, said researchers involved in the study.  For those not familiar with dopamine, it is a neurotransmitter responsible for carrying signals between brain cells.  In men, the highest concentration of dopamine occurs in the ventral striatum region of the brain when they consume alcohol, and this region just so happens to be associated with pleasure, reinforcement, and addiction formation.  So what does this mean in plain language?  Men generally derive more pleasure from the intoxicating effects of alcohol than women. As a byproduct of that, they are also more likely to pick up a binge drinking habit that ultimately morphs into a full-on alcohol use disorder.

Bottom Line

In summary, alcoholism is much more prevalent among men than women in the U.S. According to science, the difference in disparity has a lot to do with how alcohol affects the male versus female brain. But what is more important to note is that men and women alike, who have a problem with alcohol, are at risk of developing significant health problems and even death if they don’t get the help they need to end their relationship with alcohol. Whether you’re a man or woman, if you have a problem with alcohol and need help getting your life back on track, our caring and compassionate associates can help you find a rehab facility in your area to help you do just that. Call us at 833-497-3812.