Background: Descriptively, male-female differences in alcohol consumption and alcohol use disorders appear to have decreased in birth cohorts reaching adulthood since the 1970s compared to earlier birth cohorts. However, such birth cohort effects on gender differences have never been statistically tested in nationally representative data. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that gender differences in alcohol consumption, abuse, and dependence are decreasing over time.
Methods: Face-to-face survey conducted in the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions among those aged <90 (N=42,693). Birth cohort was divided into four categories: 1913-1932, 1933-1949, 1950-1967, 1968-1984. Outcomes included lifetime largest drinks, frequent binge drinking, DSM-IV defined alcohol abuse, and alcohol dependence, measured with the Alcohol Use Disorder and Associated Disabilities Interview Schedule (AUDADIS-IV).
Findings: Birth cohort and gender interacted significantly in predicting lifetime largest drinks (F=27.6, [d.f.=3], p<0.0001), frequent binge drinking (F=40.0, [d.f.=3], p<0.0001), alcohol abuse (F=62.0, [d.f.=3], p<0.0001) and alcohol dependence (F=15.3, [d.f.=3], p<0.0001). Cohort-specific ORs indicated monotonic decreases in the gender ratio in more recent birth cohorts for all outcomes.
Conclusion: These results suggest that gender differences in the prevalence of all four outcomes are decreasing in younger age cohorts. While these changes are consistent with a cohort effect, the possibility of age and period effects cannot be ruled out but suggest important avenues for more specific hypothesis testing. Further, women in younger cohorts may be in need of new targeted prevention and intervention efforts.