Menopause, ageing, and alcohol use disorders in women

Maturitas. 2018 May;111:100-109. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2018.03.006. Epub 2018 Mar 13.


Alcohol intake affects the female body differently than it affects the male body. This is caused by females' lower levels of dehydrogenase enzymes, the enzyme that breaks down alcohol, coupled with the higher fat/water ratio of the female body. Both these factors cause alcohol levels to rise more quickly after ingestion in women than in men. This makes females more vulnerable to alcohol's harmful effects, and consequently women tend to develop alcohol-related diseases earlier in life than do men. As women age and go through menopause, they experience changes in body composition and life changes like retirement or loss of a loved one. The disparity between men's and women's rates of alcohol consumption decreases, especially in last 2 decades. Stress and depression related to menopause may trigger the onset of alcohol abuse or worsen established alcohol misuse. Alcohol abuse decreases quality of life and any potential positive effects of moderate alcohol intake are minuscule in comparison to the adverse effects caused by alcohol abuse. Further, due to social stigmas, women tend to have more difficulty gaining access to treatment and recovering from alcohol dependence than do men. Current research on interventions and treatments that aim to reduce alcohol use disorder (AUD) or to prevent its occurrence in middle-aged and elderly women is limited. We provide an overview of drinking patterns, and of the prevalence, risk factors, health impacts and treatment challenges of AUD for women as they progress through middle and older age.

Keywords: Age; Alcohol; Alcoholism; Menopause; Women.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / complications*
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology*
  • Alcoholism / etiology
  • Alcoholism / therapy
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menopause / psychology*
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors