Women, Girls, and Alcohol
The gender gap in underage drinking has closed. Young girls are drinking more than underage boys.
Young females are more likely to have ever drunk alcohol than males.
- 70.9 percent of female high school students have ever drunk compared to 70.6 percent of male high school students.1
Students reporting that they have had a drink in the last 30 days:2
According to 2011 data, more ninth-grade girls consume alcohol than do ninth-grade boys. Ninth-grade girls report binge drinking almost as much as ninth-grade boys.
Ninth-grade students reporting alcohol use:3
|Ninth-Grade Girls||Ninth-Grade Boys|
|Drank alcohol in last 30 days||30.3%||29.3%|
|Engaged in binge drinking (5+ drinks on same occasion in last 30 days)||13.0%||15.0%|
Young people's alcohol beverage of choice appears to be shifting from beer to spirits. Girls are more likely to prefer spririts than boys. Girls are also more likely to prefer alcopops than boys.4, 5
Youth Exposure to Alcohol Advertising:
Girls are significantly more likely than boys to be overexposed to alcohol advertising in magazines, as seen in a study from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth that analyzed alcohol advertising in magazines in 2002.
- Girls, ages 12 to 20, saw 68% more beer advertising than women of legal age on a per capita basis in magazines in 2002, while boys, ages 12 to 20, saw 29% more beer advertising than men on a per capita basis.6
- Girls saw 30% more distilled spirits advertising per capita than women in magazines in 2002, while boys saw almost as much as men.7
- Girls saw 95% more magazine advertising for "alcopops" than women per capita in 2002, while boys saw 37% more than men. Girls' exposure to alcopop magazine advertising increased by 216% from 2001 to 2002, while boys' exposure increased 46%.8
- Sixteen alcoholic beverage brands (14 distilled spirits brands, one beer, and one low-alcohol refresher brand) accounted for half of the total magazine alcohol advertising exposure of girls ages 12 to 20 in 2002. Five of these 16 brands had greater exposure in magazines to underage girls per capita than to women ages 21 to 34.9
In a 2008 update of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth data, girls were still more likely than boys to be overexposed to alcohol advertising in magazines.
Magazine Gross Rating Point Ratio by Gender, 200810
GRP ratio 12-20/21+
GRP ratio 12-20/21+
Beer and Ale
Girls may be particularly susceptible to alcohol advertising, especially to alcohol-branded merchandise (ABM).
- One study found that 10-14 year old girls who owned alcohol-branded merchandise were 3.3 times more likely to start using alcohol within 1-2 years than girls who did not own ABM. There was no relationship between owning ABM and early initiation of drinking in boys.11
- Young girls are more likely to ride in a car with a driver who had been drinking than young boys. 22.9 percent of ninth grade girls reported having ever ridden in a car with a driver who had been drinking compared to 20.7% of ninth grade boys.12
- While boys are still more likely to be arrested for underage drinking, girls' rates increased by 7.7% from 1980 to 2005, whereas boys' rates declined by 25%.13
- Only 9% of those arrested for DUI in 1980 were female. However, by 2004, women accounted for 20% of those arrested for DUI. In women ages 18-20, the rate nearly doubled from 1980 to 2004.14
- In a study using BRFSS data from 1991-2005, the prevalence of pregnant women ages 18-44 reporting any alcohol use while pregnant was 12.2%. 1.9% of these pregnant women reported binge drinking while pregnant.15
- Women generally drink less and less often than men. However, women drinkers are at higher risk for certain medical problems, including liver, brain, and heart damage, than are men who drink comparable amounts.16
- Women metabolize alcohol differently than men. When women and men of the same body weight drink the same amount of alcohol, women reach higher peak blood alcohol levels.17
- The USDA Dietary Guidelines reflect that women drinkers are at higher risk for alcohol-related health problems. The USDA prescribes that any alcohol use be done in moderation and defines moderation as no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men.18
- Several meta-analyses have found that any consumption of alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer, and that the degree of risk rises as the level of consumption increases.19, 20
- Adolescent girls are two times more likely to be depressed as adolescent boys. There is also a stronger relationship between depression and substance use in young girls than young boys.21
Risky Sexual Behavior and Sexual Assault:
- The disinhibiting effect of alcohol is more pronounced in adolscent girls than in adult women.22
- It is estimated that teenage girls who binge drink are up to 63% more likely to become teen mothers.23 Early initiation of alcohol use also increases the likelihood tha a teen mother will drink during pregnancy.24
- It is estimated that in 1998 more than 70,000 college students were victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.25
- One study of over 5,000 undergraduate women found that 20% of seniors had been victims of sexual assault during college.26
- In a survey done of prisoners in state jails in 1997, 40% of convicted rape and sexual assault offenders said that they were drinking at the time of their crime.27
- Of domestic violence incidents reported by the victims, 67% involve an abusive partner who has been drinking.28
- A study on substance abuse and domestic violence between 1993 and 1998 found that 57% of domestic violence incidents during those six years involved only alcohol, while 10% of incidents involved both alcohol and drug use. In contrast, only 11% of domestic violence incidents during those years involved only drug use, and only 21% involved no substance abuse at all.29
Updated July 2011. YRBS updated in 2012.