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Stress may steer women to excessive drinking: study

Photo: IvanZivkovic/iStockphoto

Tempe, AZ — Stress may be more likely to prompt heavy drinking among women than men, a recent study from Arizona State University shows.

Researchers adjusted a laboratory to simulate a bar setting and randomly selected 210 participants (half of whom were women). The participants were separated into groups, with some experiencing a stressful situation while others didn’t before drinking. Half of the participants were served alcohol, while the other half received three nonalcoholic drinks. A 90-minute open-bar period followed.

Although stress triggered heavier drinking among all participants, the researchers found that men who experienced stress and initially were served alcohol drank more than their counterparts who first consumed the placebo. However, findings show that the women who were exposed to stress drank heavily regardless of alcohol content in their first drink.

“If women are getting stressed out and they’re choosing as their stress-buster to go drinking, it might be more dangerous for women, because the trajectory to get to an alcohol use disorder might be much shorter than for men,” Julie Patock-Peckham, lead study author and assistant research professor at ASU, said in a video associated with the study.


Patock-Peckham cites 2017 research published in JAMA Psychiatry that shows “alarming” increases in high-risk drinking and alcohol use disorders among women in recent years.

“There’s sort of a telescoping event with women in that we don’t understand why women who start drinking get to a faster trajectory of alcohol use disorders,” Patock-Peckham says in the video. She adds that the study shows why “just stress is enough to get women there.”

The study was published online Dec. 13 in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.



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