Victoria Cooper thought her drinking habits in college were just like everyone else’s. Shots at parties. Beers while bowling. Sure, she got more refills than some and missed classes while nursing hangovers, but she couldn’t have a problem, she thought.
“Because of what my picture of alcoholism was — old men who brown-bagged it in a parking lot — I thought I was fine,” says Cooper, now sober and living in Chapel Hill, N.C.
That common image of who is affected by alcohol disorders, echoed throughout pop culture, was misleading over a decade ago when Cooper was in college. And it’s even less representative today.
For nearly a century, women have been closing the gender gap in alcohol consumption, binge-drinking and alcohol use disorder. What was previously a 3-1 ratio for risky drinking habits in men versus women is closer to 1-to-1 globally, a 2016 analysis of several dozen studies suggested.
And the latest U.S. data from 2019 shows that women in their teens and early 20s reported drinking and getting drunk at higher rates than their male peers — in some cases for the first time since researchers began measuring such behavior.
Polls and Trends Commentary: Yeah, it’s so easy to fall into that trap in college because a lot of students drink. And many get wasted on occasion. However, when I was in college, most partygoers weren’t getting wasted every single weekend nor were they drinking daily.
Sure, maybe Jane got smashed during that Halloween party but it was probably the only time she drank a fair amount (more than just 2 beers or 2 shots) over a 6 or 8 week period. Just because Jane drank more than you at a party doesn’t mean she’s a heavy drinker nor does it mean you’re not.
I could get royally blitzed on any given special-occasion night but not drink a sip of alcohol again for 2 months.
If you want to compare yourself to your friends, assess their daily drinking habits with yours. Who cares if they sometimes get drunker for big events? If you’re drinking more often than them, you might have a problem. And if you’re frequently boozing in your dorm or at home at any time Sunday through Thursday for no special reason or occasion, you might have a problem.