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Alcohol abuse on the rise among women with young children, study says

NYS bars and restaurants can only serve alcohol to those who order food
Posted at 12:48 PM, Jan 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-10 12:48:51-05

Many people are giving up alcohol this month in what has become known as "Dry January."

The trend sprung up as a way to kickstart a new diet or exercise routine. However, it could be more difficult for some than others.

Research at the end of 2021 found women are abusing alcohol more than men. A federally-funded study from RTI International found that moms with children under 5 saw alcohol consumption increase by a startling 323% — the highest of any group.

Women with kids under 5 reported having more than seven drinks a week, or more than three drinks at a time.

"We are so nurturing, and we are so giving, and where we're just giving and putting ourselves last all the time, and you find relief in a bottle," said Brenda Wilhelmson, the author of "Diary of an Alcoholic Housewife."

Wilhelmson struggled with alcoholism for more than 20 years. She and medical experts say depression and anxiety explain why alcohol abuse is high among young mothers. She also pointed to pandemic-related stressors, like loss of loved ones, jobs, child care and uncertainty.

But experts say there's more to it.

"The normalization of drinking at home was put in place with the pandemic, and that might actually have persisted," said health economist Carolina Barbosa. "There's a real concern with that."

Normalizing drinking at home and accessibility increased simultaneously, from expanded delivery services to restaurants offering to-go alcohol drinks.

Another factor is the rise in social media use and content related to "mommy wine culture," which promotes the idea of drinking as a harmless way to cope with parenting stress.

Fortunately, medical experts are also seeing an increase in women seeking professional help.

"There's so much shame and guilt that comes with addiction, and so often people do not seek help, even though they need it," said Dr. Elizabeth Bulat, an addiction medicine specialist at the Henry Ford Health System. "And it's unfortunate because the sooner that we engage people in treatment, we can get into a path of a recovery and remission."

RTI also found alcohol consumption among Black men and women and Hispanic women has increased substantially in recent years.