HealthDay News — Women across the globe are now nearly as likely as men to drink and to engage in excessive, harmful drinking, according to a new study published online October 24 in BMJ Open.

Tim Slade, PhD, an epidemiologist with the National Drug and Alcohol Research Center at the University of New South Wales in Randwick, Australia, and colleagues pooled data from 4,426,673 individuals who were part of 68 international studies. These studies were published between 1980 and 2014 and included data collected between 1948 and 2014, representing people born as far back as 1891. The researchers focused on three categories: any alcohol use, excessive use, and health and social problems related to drinking. 

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Men born between 1891 and 1910 were 2.2 times as likely as their female counterparts to drink alcohol. People born between 1991 and 2000 were about equally likely to drink, the researchers found. At the same times, the gender gap for excessive drinking fell from 3.0 times higher for men to 1.2 times. The gender gap for harms associated with drinking fell from 3.6 times higher for men to 1.3 times. After accounting for potential bias, the researchers concluded that the gender gap for drinking fell by 3.2% with each successive five-year generation, but was steepest among those born from 1966 onward.

“Findings confirm the closing male-female gap in indicators of alcohol use and related harms,” the authors write. “The closing male-female gap is most evident among young adults, highlighting the importance of prospectively tracking young male and female cohorts as they age into their 30s, 40s, and beyond.”

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