Are young women putting themselves in danger through binge drinking?
A large proportion of young women are at personal risk after getting drunk, a report by the Portman Group says.
The organisation which is funded by the drinks industry, says that over a third of women had been sexually assaulted while drunk and 34% had had unprotected sex after drinking.
It also found that women are more likely to become more aggressive than men while drunk.
Are young women putting themselves at risk with alcohol? What can be done to combat binge drinking?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
I am a twenty-something woman who was tee-total until 21, and have since found it's all too easy for me to drink too much. I've recently vowed to only drink wine with dinner, and maybe spirits afterwards as a 'night-cap', as I feel so much better the morning after. However, if I go out with friends to bars I always feel like the boring one as I'm not only sober but I also leave early, as by 9.30 everyone else is too drunk to hold a decent conversation. Too much of social interaction in the UK is based around going to bars and pubs and drinking.
Heather, Stockport, UK
If their health is affected, it should be considered self-harm and the person required to pay for their medical attention at the going rate.
David, Cornwall, UK
We do seem to be living through a rather puritanical phase at the moment or is it just good old male chauvinism again? Men have been drinking to excess for decades without too much outcry. Why is it now that we women are tending to drink more this suddenly becomes an "issue"?
Carole, Bristol, UK
Everybody's drinking too much, but what do you expect, as drinking is seen quite acceptable - and maybe even appropriate - way to celebrate. Just think about the England cricketers on several days' bender and no-one lifting an eyebrow. What an example for all of us to follow.
Mary, Southampton, Hampshire
One of the things I see over here when I used to hit the scene, is that most nightclubs only allow 21+ year old males, and 18+ girls. If that doesn't encourage this kind of behaviour, I don't know what does.
Zephank, Columbus, OH, USA
There is a competitive element between young women and young men to consume the most alcohol. What most young women do not accept is medical opinion that their livers do not cope with the same level as young males. They have adopted a macho stance and one of the biggest boasts is that they can drink any man under the table. Until they understand the rudiments of medical fact there is little hope.
Rob, Cheltenham, UK
We must not forget that this information is based purely and simply on the answers of those interviewed, therefore I do not think one can conclusively say that women are more likely to get more aggressive, just that they are more ready to admit that they do. We cannot read conclusively into these statistics, because there is no way of saying how many people weren't telling the truth!
I have come to dread the behaviour of my younger daughters, both in their late twenties, at family occasions. They drink copious quantities of white wine, passing through stages of joviality, tearful sentimentality..."I love you, Dad", ending in screaming abuse, first at each other, then the whole world, totally ruining the occasion. My eldest daughter tells me that such behaviour has become commonplace amongst their friends. My wife and I will spend Christmas abroad, this year.
I have a 14 year old daughter and am getting increasingly concerned at the fact that it has become cool to binge drink. I would like to add that I come from Italian stock and we have been bought up drinking wine with our meals and still do. As children we were given wine with a little water and therefore it was the norm. Women's role in society has changed over the years and in my opinion not always for the best. Women are doing themselves no favours, losing their femininity, damaging their health and losing control of what they are about. I instil in my daughter that drink is to be respected, what are other parents telling their daughters?
Why does it have to be "cool" to be drunk? What on earth happened to just enjoying a drink with friends and having a thoroughly good time without getting drunk and making a fool of yourself or, even worse, getting into trouble?
Deepak Lalwani, London,UK
I have no doubt that young women are drinking more heavily these days, but the statistic that 35% have been sexually assaulted when drunk is almost certainly just alarmist rubbish. However, young women owe it to themselves not to get so 'bladdered' that they can be targeted by abusers, that's common sense.
John, London UK
They probably are drinking too much, but who didn't in their late teens and 20s? The vast majority of people grow up and grow out of it before it does any lasting damage. This seems to be scaremongering at its most blatant.
Dan, Yateley, UK
'What can be done to combat binge drinking?' Not opening pubs for longer, that's for sure.
Dean Gargano, London, UK
The majority of binge-drinkers (though by no means all) are under 21. So why not raise the legal drinking age to 21, like it is in many American states?
The idea that women are the 'gentler sex' is rubbish. They are just as capable of being foul mouthed, fight, drink excessively and have free sex. When you look at the role models in society and how children are allowed to behave in school it is no surprise. having said that women have been talking about equality for so long, now they have it...cheers , another triple please.
chris parker, bucks
This isn't just restricted to women in my opinion. We seem to have lost our respect for drink. Peer pressure must also play a part: What impressionable young woman wants to be labelled as a 'square' by her peers for not having a drink? There is also the question of women acting more like men when it comes to drinking habits. Perhaps if young people were better educated, they would try to use more common sense.
Shane, Winchester, England
I think young women are drinking way too much. Not only is it tacky to see a woman staggering blind drunk down the streets, but it is very dangerous. If you're that drunk, there is nothing you can do to stop an attack.
Karen, NYC, USA
Typically it is us women who are being held responsible for the actions of men who clearly have no respect for the weaker sex and so resort to sexual assaults and worse. I see little being done to combat these problems.
Drinking is glamorised. Our culture makes it clear that drinking is the only way to have fun and you're not very cool if you drink.
For pity's sake, why does the drinking argument always come back to us women? We can't seem to do anything right these days. Drinking is a social activity, how much we drink and what we do is our own business. We all know the risks involved as we are told time and time again. Leave us alone.
Keira Young, Whitehaven, Cumbria
I have travelled throughout the UK. There really does seem to be a "binge drinking" mentality. It appeared to be socially acceptable to drink in excess, out in public, and be openly drunk. Binge drinking definitely happens in the US, but I would say that it is not as socially acceptable. Moreover, it is against the law in the majority of cities to have an open container outside of a bar or restaurant.
Throughout my late teens and university I regularly went out with a load of rugby players! I always drank but never enough to be "legless" - the guys respected me for saying no. Now I am in my mid-twenties I appreciate that you can have just as good an evening drinking soft drinks. It's all about perceived notions and more women should be taught that there are better ways to impress men. Having said that, those who blame the pubs, clubs etc are deluding themselves. Who is to blame for imbibing so much alcohol? Nobody but yourself.
Rachel, Bradford, UK
As a twenty something female occasional binge drinker, I'm afraid I have to disagree with your correspondents claiming young women are getting drunk due to having "no hope for the future", "no self respect" and "not loving themselves". Perhaps this is why a small number of women drink excessively, just as it's why some men do. However, for most of us it's a cultural thing, we do it because our mates do, because it makes it easier to relax in company, and because right now it seems like harmless fun.
Fi, Birmingham, England
It is too simplistic to say that one will take responsibility for oneself if they want to enjoy binge drinking themselves silly. But when the drink causes longer term damage in their later lives, it will be a national health issue. It is unfair to other people who pay taxes to the NHS for these people's operations, medicine or kidney and liver transplants.
I have noticed a change in attitude of women drinkers over the years mainly in the town centre bars where large groups of young women drink. They are much more aggressive and loud nowadays and are in many cases acting in the same way as groups of young men do and are quite rightly frowned upon. One problem I think is quite apparent is that unfortunately we do live in a society where women are not always safe and the younger generation seem to feel the need to show they are not afraid and so don't take as much care as they should do in certain situations.
Simon, Oxford, England
I'm 18 and never drunk anything alcoholic, something which is considered extremely weird. What does that tell you about society? Pressure is rife for us to drink and there's not many who are like me age wise who won't touch it either.
Elizabeth Davidson, Beckingham, Doncaster
The type of alcoholic drink has changed over the last decade. Drinks containing high amounts of colouring, flavouring and sugar must affect people behaviour more than more natural products. Women seem to drink these types of drinks more than men and this is why they are more likely to become more aggressive while drunk.
Gwyn Roberts, London
My daughter who is in her early thirties, has a responsible job in the legal profession, has all the outward appearance of being a solid upstanding citizen, meets her equally responsible friends every Friday night and each one consumes two bottles of wine during the course of the evening. She frequently cannot remember her journey home and has been propositioned by taxi drivers on more than one occasion. When I remonstrate with her I'm told I'm being 'old fashioned' and 'everyone does this nowadays'.
E, Leeds UK
Young women are drinking too much. But then again, so are young men, old women and old men. Too often binge drinkers are presumed to be young, out of control louts. However, the British mentality to drinking means that people of any age frequently indulge in binge drinking.
As long as they do no harm to anyone other than themselves, let them get on with it. It's their life not mine.
Anon, Leicester, England
It's nothing new - 10 years ago I could quite happily get through a bottle and a half of vodka and several pints in one night. Now in my 30s I'm paying for it. I have damaged kidneys and a damaged liver. As for unprotected sex - let's just say I was VERY lucky not to catch anything. There are various reasons for the binge drinking - mine was I am by nature a shy person, the more drunk I got the less shy I was. The less shy I was the easier it was to talk to people. Diagnoses of liver problems stopped me drinking and good, true friends made me come out of my shell naturally.
Everybody drinks too much in our days, not just women. It is not only a cultural thing, but it also relates to social and economic factors. In other words, people work very long hours for peanuts, live in constant stress and they use a few drinks or more to help them relax and avoid going paranoid. Of course it is bad for us, we all know it.
A Oikonomou, Athens, Greece
Blimey! There is nothing "classy" about drinking yourself into oblivion. If these are the kinds of women out there, then I feel really sorry for the men who are not looking for the "ladette type" but someone who will not embarrass them. Are any of these women out there?
Mary C, London
I found the tone of the comments in your article about women 'taking risks' with regard to sexual assault after drinking offensive. Are women who sleep in a tent on a camping holiday or who fall asleep on a long train journey also somehow culpable if someone assaults them? The responsibility for such assault is entirely with the assailant and nothing to do with the condition, dress, age and ability to fight back of the victim.
I have an idea! Open pubs for 24 hours, do a happy hour where drinks can be purchased for £1 a pint and encourage young women to go to clubs by making the entrance fees cheaper for them. Drink is the goddess of our society, worshipped at the altar of the local pub. Prohibition could be an option.
If you love yourself you will not treat your body so badly but try to care about yourself. What we have is a whole load of women who do not care about themselves and struggle with self abuse. It's suicide, slowly killing themselves through alcohol abuse. They know it's killing them but for some reason they don't care about themselves. We need to ask the question: What has happened in society for women not to care anymore about their future and where has all the hope gone?
Once again the binge drinking thing is doing the rounds. These sorts of statistics keep coming out on a regular basis. Why aren't the government doing something about it? Everyone knows that drinking a large amount of alcohol is risking people's health, whether it be men or women. It's about time the problem was taken seriously.
Michael Morton, Selby, UK
Strange question. Are women to be blamed for putting themselves more at risk? Why not blame those who originate the risk. This is just another variation on the wearing a Rolex in a slum argument. No. You don't deserve to be robbed.
Dave M, USA / UK
A lot of drinking is encouraged by the "let's keep up with the lads" attitude. Men encourage it by admiring these woman and somehow seeing them as desirable. The difference between the sexes has almost diminished, femininity in itself is somehow out of favour in today's society!
One way to stop women binge drinking is to stop bars from giving free drinks to women and selling alcohol extremely cheap. The cheaper the drinks are, the more people can afford, therefore the more they can drink! And the clubs that do free drinks for women should be banned from doing so, as it encourages women to drink more, and also gives men the excuse to ply them with more and more drink throughout the night. It may be true that women can get aggressive when drunk, but men are still stronger and heavier, so their level of violence can be more damaging and even fatal.
Sian, Kent, UK
I'm not too sure about that one. Several of the interviews I've heard have had girls talking about how they got blind drunk and woke up next to a stranger and they were blaming this on the alcohol. Well, no, sorry. I've done this myself at university while blind drunk and I am perfectly well aware that it is not the fault of the alcohol, it is my fault for drinking so much of the stuff. While I do recognise that sometimes horrific things do happen that aren't the fault of the drunken girl, most just need to learn to take responsibility for their own actions. If they start a fight it is their fault, not the drink.
Young women do need to take responsibility for their actions and should be aware of the risks that drinking poses to their health and personal safety. However, surely the most alarming aspect of this report is the extent to which men are abusing women in this state. Surely the greater fault lies with the people committing the assault rather than the victim?
Ellie, London, UK
It's a free country and women are supposed to have the same rights as men, if we want to binge drink it should be our decision and we take responsibility for our actions.
Kimmy, Dunstable, England
Yes I am sure that young women are putting themselves at risk - but I'm sure publishing a study like this just gets their back up rather than stopping them. I don't know what the answer is, but publishing a study saying "women are drinking too much and putting themselves at risk" isn't it. Tell us something we don't know!
Julie, London, UK
This is definitely the case. I was on a Manchester bus on Friday night when 3 teenage drunk girls came on. When one started making herself sick on the floor, I asked if she could wait until she got off to do this. All I got in return was a lot of high pitched screaming about their rights as they had paid to be on the bus. The problem isn't so much to do with drinking as it is to do with the complete uneducated and selfish nature of a lot of people these days
Chris, Leeds, UK
In cultures that emphasise working hard, long hours for minimum appreciation and job security, it's no wonder people drink heavily. I loathe the taste of alcohol, but it's clear to me that moderation is easier when you're less stressed.
Kaz, Briton in NJ, USA
Anyone, young, old, male or female who over indulges in alcohol is not only exposing themselves to the risks that alcohol presents to the body, but also to the problems caused by the changes in behaviour that it can cause. Women are not the only ones affected by such behaviour. People fail to realise that alcohol is far more dangerous than many illegal substances and should be treated extremely carefully. There is nothing wrong with a couple of relaxing drinks with friends and the associated effects, but the current vogue for drinking to excess is damaging on both personal and social levels and it really is time we looked very seriously at the reasons behind the continuing abuse of substances which affect us so negatively.
Brendan MacLean, Birmingham, UK
To have this debate about women in particular seems strange. Yes, women are potentially more vulnerable than men, but we are all vulnerable when drunk because our judgement is impaired. Men can also be assaulted, sexually or otherwise, and can make poor decisions about what is and isn't a safe and sensible sexual encounter.
Alex, London, UK
Speaking as a woman, I would say that I wish we lived in a society where women could feel safe in public no matter how inebriated they are. But the sad fact is that there are men out there who are sexual predators and the lines between drunken flirtation, consensual sex, and rape become blurred when a woman is not sober enough to realise what she is getting herself into. I certainly have put myself in precarious situations when drunk (when I was a lot younger) but thankfully was very lucky and escaped unharmed and unmolested. Likewise, men can be affected negatively by this when they sleep with a girl who is the worse for wear, or indeed if they are drunk themselves, as who is to say that she will not change her mind in the morning and see it as rape? It works both ways... drinking to excess is dangerous for everyone concerned.
There are two very distinct issues here. One is that of young women drinking themselves into oblivion and ending up either having unprotected or unconsenting sex with complete strangers. The other is the matter of defining "binge drinking" - when government guidelines refer to something rather daft like "four or more drinks in one session" it's hard to take it too seriously. I typically go to the pub no more than once a week but typically drink more than four pints of beer when I do. Calling this "binge drinking" simply warps statistics and masks the impact of those who drink more like 10-12 pints or more in a single session.
John B, UK