Victoria Cooper thought her drinking habits in college were just like everyone else’s. Shots at parties. Beers while bowling. Sure, she got more refills than some and missed classes while nursing hangovers, but she couldn’t have a problem, she thought.
“Because of what my picture of alcoholism was – old men who brown-bagged it in a parking lot – I thought I was fine,” says Cooper, now sober and living in Chapel Hill, N.C.
That common image of who is affected by alcohol disorders, echoed throughout pop culture, was misleading over a decade ago when Cooper was in college. And it’s even less representative today.
For nearly a century, women have been closing the gender gap in alcohol consumption, binge-drinking and alcohol use disorder. What was previously a 3-1 ratio for risky drinking habits in men versus women is closer to 1-to-1 globally, a 2016 analysis of several studies suggested.
And the latest U.S. data from 2019 shows that women in their teens and early 20s reported drinking and getting drunk at higher rates than their male peers – in some cases for the first time since researchers began measuring such behavior.