Today’s women have caught up with men in every aspect of life, be it education, jobs, sports or having a gala time. Women across the world now consume nearly as much alcohol as men, according to a new research which shows that the gender gap in drinking habits is closing.

The trend, known as ‘sex convergence’, is most evident among young adults, according to researchers from University of New South Wales in Australia.

Historically, men have been far more likely than women to drink alcohol, and to consume it in quantities that damage their health, with some figures suggesting up to a 12-fold difference between the sexes.

However, now evidence is beginning to emerge that suggests this gap is narrowing.

In a bid to quantify this trend over time, researchers pooled the data from 68 relevant international studies out of a total of 314, all of which had been published between 1980 and 2014.

Women drinking alcohol like men
Women in a restaurant

All the studies included explicit regional or national comparisons of men’s and women’s drinking patterns across at least two time periods.

The studies included data collected between 1948 and 2014, representing people born as far back as 1891, all the way up to 2000, and including a total sample size of more than 4 million.

Sixteen of the studies spanned 20 or more years; five spanned 30 or more.

The researchers used the following criteria to inform their data search: lifetime and/or current alcohol misuse or dependence; alcohol related problems; treatment for alcohol issues; and the timeframe of use and the development of related problems.

They used 11 key indicators of alcohol use and associated harms for their analysis.

These were grouped into three broad categories – any use; problematic use, which included binge/heavy drinking; and the prevalence ofassociated harms.

Births were grouped into cohorts – specific timeframes from 1891 to 2000 – all of which spanned five years, with the exception of the first (1891-1910) and the last (1991-2000).

The pooled data showed that the gap between the sexes consistently narrowed across all three categories of any use, problematic use, and associated harms over time.

Men born between 1891 and 1910 were over twice (2.2) as likely as their female peers to drink alcohol; but this had almost reached parity among those born between 1991 and 2000 (1.1).

The same patterns were evident for problematic use, where the gender gap fell from 3 to 1.2, and for associated harms, where the gender gap fell from 3.6 to 1.3.

After taking account of potential mathematical bias in the calculations, the gender gap fell by 3.2 per cent with each successive five year period of births, but was steepest among those born from 1966 onwards.

The study appears in the journal BMJ Open

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