The Sobering Reality
Women and Alcohol
The recent reports on alcohol-related deaths in the UK paint a bleak and alarming picture, highlighting a worrying increase in alcohol-related deaths in women. This trend is shocking and underlines a dawning reality: women are not immune to the devastating effects of alcohol abuse. Dr. Richard Piper, chief executive of the charity Alcohol Change, points to the "incessant marketing of drinks towards women" as a key factor driving this surge, advocating for stricter regulation of alcohol advertising.
The targeted marketing of alcohol towards women is not a new phenomenon, but its intensity and pervasiveness have reached new heights in the digital age. As a perimenopausal woman myself, I've observed a substantial presence of alcohol-related content in media, from social media advertisements to white wine podcast reviews. This bombardment implies that alcohol is a viable solution or escape for women facing various life challenges.
However, to attribute the rise in alcoholism among women solely to marketing would be an oversimplification. The complexities of this issue go deeper. The pressures and expectations placed on women – from caring responsibilities and work stress to navigating perimenopause and menopause – create a landscape where alcohol can seem like an easy fix, (’is it wine’ o clock yet?’) reminiscent of past eras when 'a pill' was the go-to solution for any discomfort. Instagram accounts boasting of positive parenting revel in the post-kids-bedtime reward curled up comfortably on the couch, as smug as they are snug, tumbler in hand.
Despite efforts to reduce the stigma of addiction and dependency, societal attitudes still lean towards shaming, particularly towards women. Headlines from this weekend that screamed "WOMEN DRINKING THEMSELVES TO DEATH" not only sensationalise the issue but also contribute to the shame and fear of judgment that many women who face addiction experience. This stigma can prevent women from seeking the help they desperately need.
Women are constantly navigating a minefield of contradictory expectations: to mother perfectly, to age without showing it, to be successful yet not too ambitious. These societal pressures are immense and often internalised, leading to a search for temporary and often secret solace in substances like alcohol. The shame associated with this coping mechanism is deeply ingrained, even reflected in the way we report and discuss these troubling statistics.
We cannot continue on this path of blame, shame, and ridicule. The weight of these expectations and societal attitudes is contributing to the alarming statistics we now face. To shift the tide, we must dismantle these harmful narratives and responses. This change needs to start immediately, with a collective effort to support and empower those affected.
If you are struggling with alcohol dependency or know someone who is, remember: addiction is not a choice, and you deserve help. The first step is often the hardest – reaching out. But know that support is available, and there is no shame in seeking it. We must create an environment where asking for help is seen as a sign of strength, not weakness. Whatever your gender.
In conclusion, the rise in alcohol-related deaths among women in the UK is a multifaceted issue, deeply intertwined with societal norms, marketing strategies, and the stigma surrounding addiction. Addressing this crisis requires a holistic approach that includes stricter regulation of alcohol advertising, increased support and treatment options, and a societal shift in attitudes towards addiction and mental health. It's time for a change, and it must start now.
Executive Director, Fundraising and Communications, Forward Trust