Women’s Binge Drinking Outpaces Men’s After Pandemic

group of college students walking to suggest women's binge drinking

The overwhelming reason women say they over-drink is to cope with the stress of modern life.

During the pandemic in 2020, binge drinking among college-age students declined. The decline was attributed to the lack of gatherings and the isolation as classes went online. However, in the wake of the pandemic, overall drinking for young adults is on the rise. And in a Washington Examiner interview with Dr. George F. Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, he says that women’s binge drinking is outpacing men’s for the first time in history.


It’s what we call the alcohol deprivation effect. People tend to really rebound in drinking after a period of not drinking.” Koob said. “We are a little concerned that this spring and spring break is going to be a return to a good amount of binge drinking. I just want to caution everyone that when you start hitting the binge drinking level you start doing really bad things to your body. In 2021, there has been an uptick, particularly among women. Now it turns out on college campuses women are actually binge drinking more than men, for the first time in history,” Dr. George F. Koob from Washington Examiner


Women’s Binge Drinking

What is “binge drinking,” and why is it dangerous? A standard drink is 1.5 ounces of liquor, 12 ounces of beer, or 5 ounces of wine. According to Dr. Koob, knowing what a standard drink is and when alcohol becomes a toxin is vital to care for your health. A binge or “high-intensity drinking” is eight drinks for females and 10 for men. For more guidelines for drinking, go to the NIH’s  Rethinking Drinking.



Binge drinking is particularly problematic for women. College students of both genders are on par in every other aspect, but women are at a disadvantage when it comes to drinking.


Here’s the catch, women can’t drink like men. They’re just not built for it.


  • Women develop substance use disorders in less time than men – it’s called telescoping.
  • And they tend to weigh less and eat less than men – which means higher blood alcohol concentration.
  • Women blackout more than men.
  • Pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies, so there’s a higher alcohol content in their bloodstream than men. Even if they drink the same amount.
  • There is a higher incidence of crimes against women when intoxicated and with an intoxicated man. This is not victim shaming but a fact.
  • Women are more susceptible to heart disease, liver damage, and breast cancer.
  • They have a higher risk of infectious diseases.
  • And women have unique issues associated with reproduction and pregnancy.


Why Do Women Drink?

A Study by the RAND Corporation shows that women’s drinking increased by 41% during the pandemic. In the past decade, more women have been charged with drunk driving. Women are more frequently measured with high concentrations of alcohol in their bloodstream at car accident scenes. More women are being treated for dangerous intoxication in emergency rooms. And women consumers are driving the steady growth of wine sales. Men’s drinking habits have remained flat or fallen in the past few years.


The overwhelming reason women say they over-drink is to cope with the stress of modern life. And during the pandemic, women’s stress levels rose commensurate with the additional workload related to childcare/education, work stressors, and isolation.  Of course, no one is expecting all women to stop drinking. But a few words to the wise are sufficient – especially for college women. Evaluate your relationship with alcohol, understand the alcohol danger zone, and seek professional help if you are developing an alcohol problem.


Sanford Behavioral Health is licensed and accredited as an addiction, eating disorder, and co-occurring mental health treatment facility, serving all of Michigan and beyond. Each of Sanford’s facilities in Greater Grand Rapids is carefully and diligently crafted to create a welcoming and comforting environment. Sanford is led by a psychiatrist-led team of medical, clinical, and support personnel providing medication-assisted, evidenced-based treatment to residential, outpatient, and telehealth patients. For more information, visit www.sanfordbehavioralhealth.com.