Historically, women have faced unjust judgement for their drinking habits, perpetuating outdated and gender-biased norms. It's essential to reject these double standards and uphold the principle that women, like men, have the right to make their own choices regarding alcohol consumption, free from societal scrutiny or pressure. However, there is a catch! A recent TikTok video posted by Samia Hurst (@samiahurstmajno), a physician, spotlighted a critical point – women metabolise alcohol differently than men due to variations in body composition and enzymes. Scientifically, this means women should be mindful of their alcohol consumption to minimise health risks. It underscores the importance of informed choices in drinking habits. This perspective is objective, with no moral judgments intended regarding women's alcohol consumption. It focuses on the medical aspects and health considerations.
What does alcohol do to a woman’s body and why?
Scientifically, alcohol poses unique risks for women. Women generally have a higher body fat percentage and lower water content than men, causing alcohol to be less diluted in their bodies, leading to quicker absorption and higher blood alcohol concentrations. This heightens vulnerability to alcohol-related health issues such as liver disease, breast cancer, and heart problems. Excessive drinking can also impair fertility, harm pregnancies, and increase the risk of violence. Even when a woman consumes the same quantity based on her body weight, she still faces roughly six times the risk of developing liver cirrhosis compared to a man. Hurst explains the risks of alcohol consumption on women in her TikTok video.
According to NatGeo, women who consume alcohol experience a higher incidence of health issues, even at considerably lower alcohol intake levels compared to men. The U.S. National Institutes of Health noted an increased likelihood of women being hospitalised and succumbing to health complications related to alcohol over the past two decades. The situation presents a distinct scenario within India, which may involve unique cultural, social, and healthcare factors. The 2022 National Family Health Survey revealed a significant disparity: only 1% of women consume alcohol compared to 22% of men.
Indian Women and Alcohol
A significant gender disparity exists in alcohol consumption in India, particularly among women aged 15-49. Several factors contribute to this phenomenon. India's conservative social norms and cultural values often discourage women from openly engaging in alcohol consumption. Traditionally, women's roles have been deeply rooted in family and domestic life, and this has influenced their drinking patterns. While the landscape is gradually evolving, the deeply ingrained societal expectations and gender roles continue to shape women's drinking behaviours, leading to the striking contrast in alcohol consumption between men and women in the country.
Despite lower alcohol consumption among Indian women, it's essential to address the issue from a scientific and medical standpoint. Alcohol's differential impact on women's bodies is a pressing concern. By framing the discussion in medical terms rather than solely socio-cultural ones, Samia Hurst promotes awareness of the health risks associated with alcohol consumption and encourages informed choices for all, irrespective of gender. She noted, “Although you will take a risk with your health whatever the alcohol you drink, this is a risk you’re allowed to take—it’s up to you, basically.”