Housewife or working mum--each to her own? The relevance of societal factors in the association between social roles and alcohol use among mothers in 16 industrialized countries

Addiction. 2011 Nov;106(11):1925-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2011.03507.x. Epub 2011 Jul 27.


Aims: To investigate whether differences in gender-income equity at country level explain national differences in the links between alcohol use, and the combination of motherhood and paid labour.

Design: Cross-sectional data in 16 established market economies participating in the Gender, Alcohol and Culture: An International Study (GenACIS) study.

Setting: Population surveys.

Participants: A total of 12,454 mothers (aged 25-49 years).

Measurements: Alcohol use was assessed as the quantity per drinking day. Paid labour, having a partner, gender-income ratio at country level and the interaction between individual and country characteristics were regressed on alcohol consumed per drinking day using multi-level modelling.

Findings: Mothers with a partner who were in paid labour reported consuming more alcohol on drinking days than partnered housewives. In countries with high gender-income equity, mothers with a partner who were in paid labour drank less alcohol per occasion, while alcohol use was higher among working partnered mothers living in countries with lower income equity.

Conclusion: In countries which facilitate working mothers, daily alcohol use decreases as female social roles increase; in contrast, in countries where there are fewer incentives for mothers to remain in work, the protective effect of being a working mother (with partner) on alcohol use is weaker. These data suggest that a country's investment in measures to improve the compatibility of motherhood and paid labour may reduce women's alcohol use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholic Beverages / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Developed Countries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Housekeeping
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Multilevel Analysis
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Role*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Women, Working / statistics & numerical data*