Women's binge drinking unfairly stigmatised in the media

04 January 2017

Women

Media coverage on binge drinking shows bias against women, according to new research by Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) and the University of Glasgow.

Researchers investigated how the media report women’s and men’s binge drinking and found that women who binge drink are depicted more negatively by the media than men who do the same.

The study, published in the BMJ Open, analysed 308 articles published over two years in seven popular UK national newspapers. It highlighted that women’s binge drinking was given more media coverage, despite men drinking more in reality.

As well as misrepresenting differences in the amount that each gender drinks, the researcher found that articles depicted women’s and men’s binge drinking in different ways.

Women were depicted as out of control, unfeminine, under-dressed and undignified, with a strong emphasis on the deterioration of women’s physical appearance and attractiveness due to alcohol. Women were described as ‘ravaged’, ‘ruined’ and ‘haggard’ and there was a tendency to characterise females as inconvenient burdens to their male drinking companions.

The researchers noted the media’s unrealistic portrayal of binge drinking could mask – or even create – health problems by offering audiences inaccurate understandings of what binge drinking is, what its effects are, and how to lower their own health risks.

Dr Carol Emslie, Lead of the Substance Use & Misuse research group in the School of Health and Life Sciences at Glasgow Caledonian University, co-authored the research.

She said: “In the UK, men still drink more than women and are more likely to die from alcohol-related causes. However, the media’s disproportionate focus on women’s drinking, including the headlines and images used, may lead the public to think that it is primarily young females who are the problem drinkers. Alcohol is more freely available, more affordable and more heavily marketed today than it has been for decades, and excessive drinking affects all sections of the population.”

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