Alcohol-Related Disparities Among Women: Evidence and Potential Explanations

Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, September 2020

Although research on alcohol-related disparities among women is a highly understudied area, evidence shows that racial/ethnic minority women, sexual minority women, and women of low socioeconomic status (based on education, income, or residence in disadvantaged neighborhoods) are more likely to experience alcohol-related problems. These problems include alcohol use disorder, particularly after young adulthood, and certain alcohol-related health, morbidity, and mortality outcomes. In some cases, disparities may reflect differences in alcohol consumption, but in other cases such disparities appear to occur despite similar and possibly lower levels of consumption among the affected groups. To understand alcohol-related disparities among women, several factors should be considered. These include age; the duration of heavy drinking over the life course; the widening disparity in cumulative socioeconomic disadvantage and health in middle adulthood; social status; sociocultural context; genetic factors that affect alcohol metabolism; and access to and quality of alcohol treatment services and health care. To inform the development of interventions that might mitigate disparities among women, research is needed to identify the factors and mechanisms that contribute most to a group’s elevated risk for a given alcohol-related problem. This article briefly reviews what is known about alcohol-related disparities among women and discusses mechanisms that could give rise to inequities in alcohol outcomes.

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