Published Monday, September 30, 2019 4:56PM EDT
TORONTO — Health experts are calling for tighter alcohol regulations amid a worrying rise in alcohol-related short and long-term harm, especially among women.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada’s largest teaching hospital of its kind, issued a new alcohol policy framework on Monday outlining the changing trends that show how easier access to alcohol, along with targeted advertising, is both narrowing the gap between men and women who drink, and increasing the overall negative health ramifications.
“We always think of alcohol as an individual choice, and really a lot of what’s in the framework is showing that there are a lot of societal influences on alcohol like marketing, and that it’s important to think about all of those factors,” said CAMH Chief of Addictions Dr. Leslie Buckley.
Women are at particular risk from drinking, Dr. Buckley says, not only because of differences in size and weight. Even at the same weight, the blood-alcohol level from drinking will be higher in women, for example. More importantly, because women process alcohol differently than men, women develop alcohol-related diseases faster than men.
“Most of the data is really focused on the general population. This whole lens that we’re taking — the gender lens — is really interesting in that it might push us to look more specifically at women and men differently,” said Buckley.
In addition, research consistently shows a strong correlation between alcohol and sexual violence. CAMH pointed to research that found that some 59 per cent of women in university had experienced sexual assault, with at least half of the situations involved drinking by the perpetrator, the victim, or both.
“Attention needs to be paid to developing policies to improve how alcohol-related sexual aggression is prevented and managed, and to change social norms about the acceptability of these behaviours,” said Buckley.
CAMH’s own research showed that at least 50 per cent of young women experienced sexual aggression, including sexual harassment or unwanted sexual touching, in a single evening out at a bar or club.
Advertising geared towards women has also evolved over the last two decades, with some experts calling it the “pinking” of the alcohol industry – using brand names, logos, and designs that appeal more to women.
Women represent a growth area for the industry, said Buckley, and more work is needed to highlight the problem of alcohol advertising targeted at women.
The report also detailed the billion dollar financial burden on the healthcare and penal system as a result of the harmful consequences.
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