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The Effects of Alcohol on Women’s Health

Updated: Aug 11, 2023


Alcohol consumption has become deeply ingrained in many societies and is often associated with socialising and relaxation. However, it is important to acknowledge the detrimental effects of alcohol on women’s health. While the harmful consequences of excessive alcohol use is well-documented for both, men and women, women face unique challenges and risks due to psychological, social and cultural factors.


How does alcohol affects female physiology


Women’s physiological makeup poses vulnerabilities when it comes to alcohol consumption. Firstly, their metabolism differs from men, as they have lower levels of alcohol dehydrogenase, enzyme responsible for breaking down alcohol. This lead to slower alcohol metabolism, resulting in higher blood alcohol concentrations and increasing the risk of liver damage and other alcohol related health conditions. Research has demonstrated the association between alcohol consumption and liver disease, such as alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis, which can progress more rapidly in women.


Furthermore, alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer in women. Multiple studies have consistently shown a dose-depend relationship between alcohol intake and breast cancer incidence. The effect is attributed to alcohol’s impact on hormone levels and increased oestrogen exposure, which can contribute to the development of breast cancer.


Psychological effects of alcohol in women


Alcohol consumption significantly impacts women’s mental health. Women who engage in heavy or chronic drinking are at an increased risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances. The physiological and psychological effects of alcohol can exacerbate existing mental health conditions and lead to the onset of new disorders. Additionally, women are more likely to experience co-occuring mental health issues alongside alcohol use, creating a complex interplay that requires comprehensive treatment approaches.


Moreover, alcohol abuse increases women’s vulnerability to violence and sexual assault. Impaired judgment, diminished ability to protect oneself and altered perception of danger contribute to increased risk in social situations involving alcohol. Alcohol consumption is a common factor in incidents of sexual assault, emphasising the need for preventive efforts, education and support services to address this issue.


Impact of alcohol on women’s reproductive health


Alcohol consumption can adversely affect a woman’s fertility and disrupt normal menstrual cycles. Excessive alcohol intake can disrupt the delicate hormonal balance necessary to regular ovulation, leading to an increased risk of infertility. Studies have shown that heavy drinking is associated with decreased fertility, delayed conception and increased risk of ovulatory disorders.


Alcohol consumption may also influence the onset and experience of menopause. Heavy drinking can lead to earlier menopause, potentially due to its impact on hormone levels and ovarian function. Moreover, alcohol use during menopause can exacerbate symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and mood disturbances.


The negative impact of alcohol on women’s health is a critical issue that demands attention and action. Physiological vulnerabilities, such as differences in metabolism and increased risk of liver damage and breast cancer, highlight the importance of promoting responsible drinking habits. Additionally, the association between alcohol consumption and mental health disorders underscores the need for integrated approaches that address both, substance use and mental well-being. Efforts to prevent sexual assault and violence must include raising awareness about the role of alcohol and promoting education.



Effects of Alcohol on Women's Health. Iremia Counselling

References:

Edenberg H. J. (2007). The genetics of alcohol metabolism: role of alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase variants. Alcohol research & health : the journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 30(1), 5–13.

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