Female alcoholics are more likely to seek treatment for their addiction sooner than men, according to a new study conducted at Stanford University and the University of Florida. The findings, published in journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, showed that women tend to enter substance abuse programs five years sooner than men.
Researchers analyzed information from 274 men and 257 women in alcohol treatment programs. They found that women had sought treatment after about 10 years of having an alcohol problem, compared with about 15 years for men. According to the research, both genders seem to start drinking heavily at age 18 or 19 and that self-reported drinking problems begin in the early 20s.
"Historically, alcoholism has been considered a 'male disease' due to its markedly higher prevalence among men," said Dr. Ben Lewis, co-author of the study. "More recently it has been recognized that while men may have a higher prevalence, women may be uniquely vulnerable to negative consequences of chronic drinking. In particular, it was recognized that women might experience a 'telescoping' effect, wherein they progress more rapidly through various stages of the disease."
The researchers did not determine the reasons why women seek treatment sooner than men, but speculated that women may attach less social stigma to alcoholism than males. In addition, they might be more willing to admit that they have a drinking problem and need professional help to overcome it.