1 July 2014

Young Australian women are ignoring the dangers of excessive drinking and consuming more alcohol than their mothers did at the same age.

A University of Queensland study that compared the drinking habits of young Australian women with those of their mothers at the same age found that female drinking has dramatically increased over the course of a generation.

Dr Rosa Alati from UQ’s Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research and the School of Population Health, said the study provided strong evidence that alcohol use in young women had increased over time.

“The major finding of this study was that daughters between the ages of 18 and 25 were five times more likely to drink at excessive levels, by consuming more than 30 glasses of alcohol per month,” Dr Alati said.

“Daughters were also three times more likely to drink between seven and 30 glasses per month than their mothers at the same age some 20 years earlier.”

The study found that relationship status impacted on the drinking habits of women, but that trends had changed over the course of a generation.

“In the mothers’ generation, the study found that single women were much more likely to drink than women with a partner,” Dr Alati said.

“This relationship was found to be reversed in the daughters’ generation, where having a partner was associated with higher intake of alcohol.”

Researchers found that women’s education levels had no bearing on the amount of alcohol they consumed, but women with dependent children were consuming less alcohol.

“We found that women in both generations without dependent children drank roughly twice as much as those who had a dependent child,” Dr Alati said.

She said further international research was needed to determine if the trends were true for women in other nations.

“Our study does suggest that Western countries may have underestimated how much more alcohol young women are consuming compared with the previous generation,” she said.

“It may be time to consider more focused public health campaigns aimed at outlining the dangers of excessive drinking to young women.”

The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, was based on the Mater University Study of Pregnancy, a Brisbane-based birth cohort study following up mothers and their children for almost 30 years.

Media: Vanessa Mannix Coppard, v.mannixcoppard@uq.edu.au, 0424 207 771.