Kathryn "Kate" Graham, a researcher at the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), has done a lot of research into gender differences in alcohol abuse. This week, Graham and Massak (2007) released results from a phone survey of over 14,000 Canadians about their use of alcohol and antidepressants. They found that while both depressed men and women drank more than their non-depressed counterparts, depressed men on anti-depressants did not drink significantly more than non-depressed women. This relationship was not true for depressed women. Based on the same survey, Graham et al (2007) found interesting patterns in the relationship between alcohol dependency and depression, suggesting that the mode of measuring each may explain many of the inconsistencies on literature on this subject.
Like previous studies we've looked at on alcohol use (see Girl Drinks, 10/3/06), Graham's study found large differences in the use of alcohol by men and women in general. For example, the greatest-drinking group of women (depressed women on anti-depressants) had on average 264 drinks per year, in comparison to the least-drinking group of men (depressed men on anti-depressants) who had 414. The CDC (2006) defines moderate drinking as 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men, which is well within the range of the results of the survey. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2002), the average consumption in the U.S. is about 428 drinks/year for men, and 193 drinks/year for women (these figures estimated from drinks/day of drinking and days drinking/month figures - no per annum figures given).
I have a personal rule that's served me well over the years. If I feel like I "need" a drink, I don't have one. Alcohol (for me, anyway) is a mood intensifier, not a mood enhancer. It's also very hard for me to keep the concept of "fairness" out of drinking once I start. It's not "fair" that I can't drink as long or as much as my friends (who tend to weigh 30-50 pounds more than I do). While my muscle mass has increased on testosterone, my alcohol tolerance hasn't, and my competitive streak seems to have gotten worse, so it's something I need to be aware of.