Increased consumption of alcohol by girls: what to do?
Historically, the highest consumption of alcohol has always been attributed to men. In recent years, however, women have significantly increased this use, not only in quantity but also in frequency.
A global study published this month by the BMJ Open analyzed the alcohol consumption habits of 4 million people over a period of more than a century, from the compilation of data from 68 international surveys published between 1891 and 2014, and showed that the difference between men and women in relation to this behavior has diminished more and more. Men born between 1891 and 1910 were 3 times more likely to drink in a harmful manner and suffer negative consequences related to alcohol than women born at the same time. This risk ratio decreased to 1.2 times among those born between 1991 and 2000, that is, there was practically no difference between genders.
It is alarming to note that this change in patterns has also occurred among adolescents. According to a report by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO, 2015), among students aged 13 to 17, more than 20% of girls and 28% of boys reported having experienced an episode of intoxication in their lives. In Brazil, the National School Health Survey (PeNSE) of 2015 (IBGE, 2016), conducted with 10,926 students in this same age group, also shows similar indices of this type of episode: 26.9% among girls and 27.5% % among boys. This means that at least 1 in 4 students has already been exposed to significant risks.
Why are teenagers drinking more?
Another population analyzed by PeNSE was 9th grade students (between 13 and 15 years), also with worrying data. Both experimentation and current consumption of alcoholic beverages (in the 30 days prior to the survey) were higher among girls: 56.1% versus 54.8% (experimentation) and 25.1% versus 22.5% (current consumption )
- One of them is the consumption of alcohol by children and adolescents, which is unacceptable, regardless of the quantity.
- The other is to understand why the girls started to drink more.
Another population analyzed by PeNSE was of 9th grade students (between 13 and 15 years old), also with worrying data. Both experimentation and current consumption of alcoholic beverages (in the 30 days prior to the survey) were higher among girls: 56.1% versus 54.8% (experimentation) and 25.1% versus 22.5% (current consumption ).
One of the hypotheses is that, similar to what occurs with boys, adolescents want to be socially accepted and alcohol is part of this scenario, as it helps to disinhibit. In addition, young women associate the use of alcohol with the profile of power and independence of the modern woman who currently occupies prominent positions in society.
Despite the socioeconomic gender equality, it is important to emphasize that physiologically the women are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol. One of the reasons is the smaller amount of water present in their bodies, and this causes the substance to be much more concentrated in your body. Women also have lower levels of the enzymes that metabolize alcohol, taking longer to eliminate it from the body.
The frequent consequences of alcohol use by young people in general are alcohol blackout and drop in school performance.
What can be done?
The above mentioned data reinforce the need to develop prevention strategies considering the particularities of the disease and the risk of unprotected sex, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unwanted pregnancies. and giving due attention to women. Research with this population is also necessary to better understand this profile and to develop specific treatment measures.It is worth mentioning that the family plays a fundamental role in the prevention of alcohol use in adolescence, be it boys or girls. There are a few classic signs such as:
- Falling in school performance
- Lack of interest in activities that were once pleasurable
- When noticing them, parents should intervene immediately . The best way to do this is to talk clearly and calmly about the harm alcohol can cause by using examples of real situations.
Work on children's self-esteem by highlighting their qualities and stimulating them to practice of pleasurable activities, such as sport, are also part of the prevention strategy.
But, above all, showing partnership is the most important for success. To set an example, to always be open to dialogue and to be friends with your child, in order to establish a relationship of mutual trust, are very important steps to avoid the early - and always inappropriate - use of alcohol.
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