Alcoholism in women: is it different in onset and outcome compared to men?

Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2007 Sep;257(6):344-51. doi: 10.1007/s00406-007-0737-z. Epub 2007 Jul 14.


Onset and course of alcohol dependence show gender related differences (telescoping effect) suggesting that women are more vulnerable to chronic alcohol consumption. This raises the question whether the differences are associated with a different treatment outcome as well. We hypothesized, that alcohol dependent women with a telescoping course show a less favourable treatment outcome compared to men. We investigated 212 alcohol dependent patients; matching 106 consecutively admitted women with 106 men drawn from a total sample of 343 male patients. The treatment program consisted of a 6 week inpatient treatment and 12 months of outpatient aftercare. We assessed milestone variables in development and course of alcoholism and carried out standardized diagnostic tests, physical and blood examinations to evaluate the course of the disease and treatment outcome. Overall, we confirm the telescoping effect, a faster progression in the course of alcoholism (developmental events and adverse consequences) in women compared to men ("telescoping effect"). However, despite the telescoping effect treatment outcome was similar in women and men. During the inpatient treatment program no alcohol relapse occurred. Throughout the 12 months outpatient treatment we found no significant differences in the survival analysis between women (283.29+/-11.26 days) and men (284.72+/-12.16 days). At the end of the 12 months both groups had an abstinence rate of approximately 50% and a drop-out rate of 33%.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / therapy*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Recurrence
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Survival Analysis
  • Temperance
  • Treatment Outcome