Gender differences in risk factors and consequences for alcohol use and problems

Clin Psychol Rev. 2004 Dec;24(8):981-1010. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2004.08.003.


Women drink less alcohol and have fewer alcohol-related problems than men. Women appear to be less likely than men to manifest certain risk factors for alcohol use and problems and are more likely to have certain protective factors against these problems: women perceive greater social sanctions for drinking; women are less likely to have characteristics associated with excessive drinking including aggressiveness, drinking to reduce distress, behavioral undercontrol, sensation-seeking and antisociality; and women are more likely to have desirable feminine traits (e.g., nurturance) protective against excessive drinking. In addition, consequences of heavy alcohol use, or alcohol use disorders, appear to be more negative for women than men, at least in some domains: women suffer alcohol-related physical illnesses at lower levels of exposure to alcohol than men, and some studies suggest women suffer more cognitive and motor impairment due to alcohol than men; women may be more likely than men to suffer physical harm and sexual assault when they are using alcohol; heavy alcohol use in women is associated with a range of reproductive problems. Implications of these findings for future research and public health education campaigns are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Alcoholism / etiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Sex Offenses
  • Social Behavior