Researchers interviewed 711 St. Louis women and men who had been labeled 15 years earlier as heavy drinkers in a National Institutes of Health (news – web sites) study. The researchers found that the women, in general, were in poorer physical and mental health than the men. The women reported more difficulty with activities such as climbing stairs, walking around the neighborhood, or caring for family members.
They also had more physical disorders that forced them to either decrease the amount of time they spent at work or at social activities. And, compared with the men, they reported greater body pain and poorer mental health, including significantly higher rates of depression. “We were surprised by the magnitude of the difference between males and females,” says Kyle Grazier, author of the study and an associate professor in health management and policy at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
Grazier presented the findings at the First World Congress on Women’s Mental Health, held in Berlin, Germany. “The heavier drinking women were much more disabled than the men,” Grazier says. “We know women are more prone to depression and mental disorders, but we didn’t expect to see the functional disorders.”
But such findings echo reports from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), which show that women are more susceptible than men to alcohol-related organ damage. And women are more likely to develop alcohol-induced liver diseases, particularly cirrhosis and hepatitis, over a shorter period of time and after consuming less alcohol than men.