Are women drinking too much? When is a glass of wine not just a glass of wine?
Trust me, it’s not often (ever) I find myself defending the Daily Mail. But I read a story today, headlined : “Wind-down wine’ alert: The relaxing glass that is turning working mothers into alcoholics.”
The Royal College of Physicians says that, as society has become more equal, women have started to drink more, and doctors are seeing more women needing treatment for alcohol-related illnesses. The spokesperson warns that women who regularly drink at the end of the day as a ‘wind down’ are storing up health problems for the future.
What’s the real story about “wine” hour?
What fascinates me are the comments on the story: where women accuse the report of sexism, complaining that men aren’t berated for heavy drinking, and this is just another opportunity to attack working Mums. One woman says: Try being a woman with kids, a career and a husband to juggle for a few days and see if you can turn down that glass of wine at the end of a hectic day! Cheer up, a glass of wine never hurt anyone!!!
I’m not so sure about that. There is nothing wrong in enjoying a glass of wine. I used to subscribe to a wine club and I DREAM of a wine tasting trip to California or the South of France like this one. What concerns me is that we often don’t talk about about where is the line between enjoying a glass of wine and NEEDING a glass of wine.
The number of women being treated for alcohol related illnesses has jumped by a quarter in two years. Women’s bodies do not process alcohol as efficiently as men, meaning we feel the effects more, and for longer. The consequences of alcohol-related illnesses are more serious in women, who are far more likely to die if they contract cirrhosis, for example. That’s not ideology – it’s biology.
Are women drinking too much?
I once knew a woman in her early 40s. She was smart, attractive and ran her own business, balancing work with raising children and a husband who worked away. So her nightly G&T was a treat, something she looked forward to. No harm in that, right?
Except, the first time she poured me a drink, I almost threw up on the spot – it was easily a generous triple measure. And while I’d water down my drink and still take two hours to drink it, she would be well onto her second or even third drink by the time I left to go home. And she would do that every night as she finished work. At weekends, she’d open a bottle of wine, while her husband had a beer.
I’m sure this woman would be horrified – and insulted – to know I thought she had a problem. She’s not doing anything that many of her friends don’t do, after all. But she’s regularly consuming two or even three times the recommended safe weekly intake of alcohol, which I’m sure has affected her health.
How much is too much?
I worry that women are ignoring a real danger to their health because of a misplaced belief that it’s ‘sexist’ or that health professionals are somehow questioning women’s right to have a home life and a career – and get stressed by combining the two.
I’m possibly biased because I’m not a very good drinker. In general, alcohol either makes me depressed or it makes me want to sleep with unsuitable people, like that guy called John or Jack, who wore Lynx body spray and lived in a caravan. Also, alcohol gives me the entirely false belief that I am a GREAT dancer. I can easily go months without drinking any alcohol, and I enjoy it on special occasions.
Yet, if I go out with other women, I can guarantee that someone will ask me why I’m not drinking, or will try and persuade me to have ‘just one’. I’ve been ganged up on by female friends in restaurants and shouted at when I’ve declined wine with dinner. I’m told “Don’t be boring!” or “Go on, you’ll make us look bad!”
I do think it’s a shame that we’re in danger of minimising the dangers of excessive drinking by shouting ‘sexist!’ and perhaps minimising our own drinking through female camaraderie – ‘I’m not doing anything the other Mums don’t do’.
What do you think? Is there any harm in a glass of wine at the end of the day? Where do you draw the line?