How does the prevalence of alcoholism vary by sex?

Updated: Nov 27, 2018
  • Author: Warren Thompson, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
  • Print
Answer

Alcoholism is at least twice as prevalent in men as it is in women. In the National Comorbidity Survey, it was 2.5 times more prevalent in men than in women. The lifetime prevalence was 20% in men and 8% in women. For alcohol abuse or dependence in the past year, the rates were 10% for men and 4% for women.

Women do not metabolize alcohol as efficiently as men. Hazardous drinking (not alcoholism) is greater than 1 drink daily for women and greater than 2 drinks daily for men.

Problem drinking in women is much less common than it is in men, and the typical onset of problem drinking in females occurs later than in males. However, progression is more rapid, and females usually enter treatment earlier than males. Women more commonly combine alcohol with prescription drugs of abuse than do males. Women living with substance-abusing men are at high risk.

Alcohol problems are less likely to be recognized in women, and women with alcohol problems are less likely to be treated. This may be because women are less likely than men to have job, financial, or legal troubles as a result of drinking.


Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!