Introduction: Reporting on alcohol use among women of reproductive age in Canada addresses a major gap in evidence.
Methods: We assessed the prevalence of weekly and heavy alcohol consumption among women aged 15 to 54 years by sociodemographic characteristics, province of residence and concurrent use of other substance(s) using data from the 2019 Canadian Community Health Survey.
Results: Of the target population, 30.5% reported weekly and 18.3% reported heavy alcohol consumption in the past year. Prevalence varied by sociodemographic characteristics, province and substance use. The most notable and significant differences were to do with cannabis use and smoking.
Conclusion: This information can guide health care providers in assessing alcohol consumption and in promoting low-risk alcohol drinking to prevent alcohol exposure during pregnancy.
- In 2019, 30.5% of women of reproductive age reported weekly alcohol consumption.
- In 2019, 18.3% of women of reproductive age reported heavy alcohol consumption that exceeds Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines.
- These proportions varied by sociodemographic characteristics, province of residence, smoking status and cannabis use.
- Prevalence estimates for weekly and heavy alcohol consumption were between 2 and 3 times higher for women who reported being current, former or experimental tobacco smokers or who had reported consuming cannabis in the past year.
Alcohol is widely used in Canada, with over 75% of the population aged 15 years and over reporting alcohol consumption in the previous year.Footnote1 Numerous adverse outcomes are associated with alcohol consumption, commonly referred to as alcohol-related harms. These include, but are not limited to, physical injuryFootnote2, adverse physical and mental health effectsFootnote2Footnote3, cancerFootnote4, cirrhosis of the liverFootnote5 and even death.Footnote2Footnote6Footnote7
Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines were published in 2011 to raise awareness to help reduce alcohol-related harms.Footnote8 These guidelines outline best practices for safe alcohol consumption, including recommendations to abstain from alcohol when planning to become pregnant or when pregnant.Footnote8 Harm reduction strategies help clinicians and public health professionals promote low-risk alcohol consumption in subpopulations who would benefit from increased awareness of the health risks associated with drinking behaviours. This is particularly important for women of reproductive age as they may have a planned or unplanned pregnancy during this time in their lives, and alcohol consumption while pregnant could have significant impacts on the fetus. In 2017, 4.2% of women in Canada who had given birth in the last 5 years reported consuming any alcohol during their pregnancy.Footnote9
In this study, we (1) report on the prevalence of weekly and heavy alcohol consumption among women aged 15 to 54 years old in Canada; and (2) explore alcohol consumption in this population by sociodemographic characteristics, province of residence, smoking status and cannabis use. To our knowledge, there are no historic or current national estimates that report on alcohol consumption by women of reproductive age. We aim to fill that gap in this paper.
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