Alarming new research has found that women in Australia are drinking alcohol at dangerous levels despite knowing the associated health risks.

Researchers from Flinders University have revealed that over 300,000 Australian women are regularly engaging in high-risk drinking behaviors, consuming 11 or more standard drinks in one sitting at least once a month, a practice known as binge-drinking.

Victoria Kostadinov from the College of Medicine and Public Health pointed out that women have been historically under-represented in alcohol research. She emphasized the need for more targeted studies, particularly concerning women who drink at very high levels, which is often not distinguished from those drinking slightly above the guidelines.

“What makes this especially concerning is that, unfortunately, women are more susceptible than men to experiencing severe health problems from excessive drinking, including liver issues, cardiovascular disease, cancers, and mental health issues like depression and anxiety,” Kostadinov said.

Alcohol can also interfere with women’s biological rhythms, such as estrogen and progesterone cycles, and negatively impact menopause.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), more than one in four (26.8 percent) of Australian adults (5.2 million) exceeded the Australian Alcohol Guideline in 2022. Among young adults aged 18 to 24, more than one in three (36.1 percent) exceeded the guideline, which is defined as consuming more than 10 drinks within one week.

The study also noted a historical increase in daily alcohol consumption by women, which rose by 203 percent between 1950 and 1980, compared to a 6 percent rise in men during the same period. Since the 1990s, drinking culture, drinking spaces, and marketed alcohol products have increasingly targeted women.

Women who drank at very high-risk levels were more likely to be unmarried, younger, experience high psychological distress, and have a mental health condition compared to men who drank at similarly high levels.

Ms. Kostadinov stressed the need for support systems specifically designed for women. “Our findings support the need for tailored strategies to prevent and manage very high-risk consumption among women, focusing on how sex and gender can affect responses to treatment, policies, and health promotion messages,” she said.

The study highlights the health risks women face with high alcohol consumption levels. Professor Jacqueline Bowden, director of the National Centre for Education and Training (NCETA), noted that alcohol consumption increases women’s risk of various cancers, including digestive, breast, and pancreatic cancer, as well as other health issues and vulnerability to alcohol-related abuse.

“By monitoring and understanding these trends, we hope to help inform public health policies and ensure women can access appropriate supports to reduce alcohol-associated harms,” Bowden said.