Page last updated: December 2, 2013
Women better at knowing their limits, study finds

A study, entitled “Staying in the Zone but Not Passing the Point of No Return: Drinking in Mid-life”, explores how middle-aged men and women aged 30 to 50 experienced alcohol.

According to data gathered from group discussions, middle-aged women are more likely than their male counterparts to stop drinking when they feel they have had enough alcohol.

Researchers spoke to 15 groups of friends in Glasgow, aged 30 to 50, about their drinking habits. They found that women in the study were more likely than men to say they stopped drinking when they reach a certain level of intoxication, and more clearly described a range of sensations and feelings in their bodies which indicated they had had enough alcohol.

Participants in the study described themselves as being ‘in the zone’ when they felt they had consumed enough to drink to feel relaxed and chatty, but not inebriated. They described their enjoyment of the sensation of being ‘in the zone’ with friends who were drinking at a similar rate, and then slowing down or stopping drinking before they felt they had passed a ‘point of no return’ when they realised they had drunk too much, as indicated by slurring, stumbling, feeling sick and becoming too loud.

The report produced a range of conclusions which could support alcohol health promotion efforts to reduce excessive drinking: Middle-aged drinkers often associate drinking alcohol with relaxation, reward and temporary release from work and childcare responsibilities; Current health promotion usually focuses on the number of units of alcohol consumed. It could usefully focus in addition on the way an individual experiences alcohol to reduce excessive drinking; Many midlife drinkers draw on physical cues from their own bodies to know when to slow down or stop drinking. The authors state that further research should examine how we support people to perceive and act on these cues to minimise harmful levels of alcohol consumption.

Source: Staying ‘in the zone’ but not passing the ‘point of no return’: embodiment, gender and drinking in mid-life. A C. Lyons, C Emslie, K Hunt. Sociology of Health & Illness Volume 36, Issue 2, pages 264–277, February 2014.

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