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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2007, 01:16 GMT
Bingeing youth of educated women
Drunken woman
Educated woman tend to give up bingeing as they get older
Educated women are far more likely to binge-drink in their 20s than those with few qualifications, a study shows.

The Institute of Child Health examined the drinking habits of thousands of British women born in 1958.

Social pressures at work have been blamed, alongside the extra money the educated have to spend.

However, by age 40 less-qualified women were more likely to be drinking too much, the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health study found.

They are often working in an environment of which drinking is part of the culture
Frank Soodeen
Alcohol Concern

The study looked at a total of 11,500 men and women, who were asked to recall their alcohol consumption at 23, 33, and 42.

Each was also given a score based on the number of 'O' and 'A' levels they had, and any degrees or other higher qualifications.

For women, drinking more than seven units of alcohol in one session was defined as binge drinking. A pint of normal-strength beer or a large glass of wine holds two units.

Male bingeing

For men the binge-drinking limit was 10 units in one sitting.

Men with fewer qualifications tend to be three times as likely to binge-drink than their well-educated counterparts, but this did not vary much at different ages.

However, women followed a different pattern, with educated women a third more likely to report binge drinking at 23.

At 42, the figure was reversed, as women with fewer qualifications were twice as likely to be binge drinking, while educated women had reduced the amount they drank.

Study author Barbara Jefferis said that while the reasons for the differences were not obvious, they could be due to differences in domestic circumstances.

"For example, among women, the less educated are more likely to have children earlier than more educated women, and also have different types of employment with differing drinking cultures," she wrote.

She said that the decline in the price of alcohol relative to average earnings over the past few decades may also be partly responsible.

'Aggressive advertising'

A spokesman for Alcohol Concern, Frank Soodeen, said that there were a number of reasons why a heavy-drinking culture had emerged in younger, well-educated women - even though the incidence of binge-drinking in women in all parts of society was on the rise.

He said: "They are often working in an environment of which drinking is part of the culture, and of course, they often have more disposable income than women with fewer qualifications.

"However, a lot of is due to marketing - the alcohol industry has specifically targeted younger professional women, and the emergence of smarter bars is particularly aimed at encouraging women to drink more."

He said that the reasons for binge drinking in older, less well educated women, were likely to be linked to anxieties about relationships, and pressures of parenthood, as well as the drinking habits of partners.

UK 'tops binge drinking league'
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27 Oct 05 |  Health

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