​Understanding Alcohol Consumption for Women: Safety Guidelines

​Understanding Alcohol Consumption for Women: Safety Guidelines

Posted by Ruth Ninan | 13th Feb 2024

Now that dry January is over, and people may be starting to drink again, it's good to review safety around drinking. While in the past, men had typically higher rates of alcohol consumption than women, this gender gap is narrowing, especially among young adults, with more women consuming alcohol regularly.

Is Alcohol Unhealthy? How much should we Drink?

While high levels of alcohol consumption are not healthy for either gender, it's particularly unhealthy for women, with women having a notably lower recommended alcohol consumption limit than men. The HSE recommends no more than 17 standard drinks (SDs) for men and 11 SDs for women in a week to be at a low risk of developing alcohol-related health problems. These drinks should be spread throughout the week to avoid binge drinking (more than 6 standard drinks on one occasion). For context, a single measure of spirits (30.5ml) or half a pint of beer is considered an SD.

The reason women's recommended alcohol consumption limit is lower than men's is that women are more vulnerable to alcohol's toxic effects. On average, women have a lower total body mass, less total body water, lower levels of gastric alcohol dehydrogenase (the enzyme that breaks down alcohol), and higher levels of body fat (which does not absorb alcohol; leaving alcohol to remain in the bloodstream). This results in women's blood alcohol concentration levels rising faster and staying elevated for longer than men's, putting them at greater risk of alcohol-related health issues after shorter periods of heavy drinking and with lower lifetime alcohol consumption levels than men.

What are the Effects of Alcohol on your Health?

Alcohol has a range of negative effects on both physical and mental health, being linked to an increased risk of heart disease, hypertension, strokes, irregular heartbeat, and heart failure. Women also experience greater levels of inflammation and damage to the brain during alcohol withdrawal. Excessive alcohol consumption also increases the risk of depressive disorders and influences interpersonal relationships when consumed by both men and women. Overconsumption of alcohol can affect the ability to read other people's emotions, experience empathy, and impair social cognition. These factors can interfere in personal, social, and work life, as well as make it harder to give up alcohol, making relapses more common.

How Much Do We Drink in Ireland?

In Ireland, rates of alcohol consumption have increased for both men and women, with the most recent data showing that in Ireland, total per capita (15yrs+) alcohol consumption in litres of pure alcohol is 12.75 litres (19.38L for men and 6.34L for women) compared to 12.27L in 2010 (18.65L for men and 6.06L for women). For comparison, 12.75L of pure alcohol is the equivalent of 515 pints of beer or 47 (700ml) bottles of vodka. This means both men and women are on average consuming higher levels of alcohol than recommended.

The key takeaway is to make sure that if you are drinking to drink within safe levels, and if you don't drink, it’s worth it to not start!


Call Now?

Click Here

Shop Now?

Click Here

Email Now?

Click Here

Book a Consultation ?

Click Here