Why the increasing number of alcoholic women in their 20s?

TOKYO —

“I’d black out daily. If there was nothing else to drink in the house, I’d swig cooking sake.”

Alcoholism is an old, familiar story, but the speaker is a 27-year-old woman, symbol of what Shukan Josei (Nov 22) calls an alarming new trend. A soaring number of alcoholics, it says, are young women.

Causes are partly physiological, partly social, partly psychological. There’s no ambiguity about the numbers, though. In 2008 the health ministry released statistics showing the number of women who drank – not necessarily to excess – had risen 4-fold in 40 years. Today, among people in their early 20s, more women drink than men – 90.4% versus 83.5%.

Izakaya pubs, says Shukan Josei, are full of all-women parties. Female celebrities are enlisted to promote alcoholic beverages. There’s nothing wrong with women having a good time, of course – or maybe there is. Women’s livers, the magazine hears from alcoholism specialist Dr Akiyoshi Saito, have considerably less capacity than men’s. “A man who drinks three large bottles of beer every day might become an alcoholic in 15 years,” he says. “A woman drinking at that pace has a good chance of becoming an alcoholic in seven or eight years.”

“In women, alcoholism often comes in the wake of a great loss,” says Saito. “Loss of a boyfriend, divorce, a personal relationship gone bad.”

In the case of the unnamed woman quoted above, it was the loss of a pet dog. She was an 18-year-old girl from the country starting university in Tokyo, and her parents urged her to take the dog along for company. She probably needed him at first, but soon she was swept up in campus life – parties, friends – and more or less forgot the dog’s existence. One night she came home to find it dead. She felt not only loss but guilt. She had, in a sense, neglected the dog to death. When she drank she felt better – at first after one beer, then after two, and so on.

She graduated and got a job. By then she found herself unable to face people without alcohol. She’d drink in the company toilet and come out hoping her breath didn’t give her away. Her memory began playing tricks on her. She missed appointments, kept clients waiting. She quit, fearing she was about to be fired. One day she woke up in a hospital with no idea how she got there. The staff told her she’d been brought in after going berserk on a train.

That was two years ago. Detox treatment followed, and now she’s on the wagon and free of the blinding headaches and piercing fears that used to assail her, though her future is still unclear.

It’s a harsh world of boisterous pleasure and deep pain. Alcohol sharpens the one and dulls the other. It’s not fair, but women, if Saito is correct, must handle it with extra care.

  • 2

    sakurala

    It is so sad that people turn to the bottle for daily relief. I am not against having a drink or 2, but if one feels they must have a drink everyday in order to feel better, they should re-evaluate their situation. I wish they would reach out to others and get the help they need rather than being sucked into alchoholism.

  • 3

    y3chome

    Poor lil dog :( Makes me hope that the story is a load of made up rubbish as it usually is in kuchikomi. OMG just to think about it.... poor dog ;_;

  • 9

    Akula

    I have a marriage problem getting in the way of my drinking. I'd like to drink more, but wife is not a drinker and doesn't tolerate me drinking more than once a week, and in moderation.

  • 1

    Virtuoso

    Makes me hope that the story is a load of made up rubbish as it usually is in kuchikomi.

    Whereas everything you read from the Associated Press and Reuters is god's honest truth, right?

  • 2

    ebisen

    I see nothing wrong with getting completely drunk once in a while (like a few (2-3) times a year).. Doing this on a trice-a-week basis is going to ruin your body...

  • 2

    MaboDofuIsSpicy

    “A man who drinks three large bottles of beer every day might become an alcoholic in 15 years,” he says. “A woman drinking at that pace has a good chance of becoming an alcoholic in seven or eight years.”

    Bull dinky. Three bottles a day is not going to turn anyone into an alcoholic. My niece is a doctor and I wrote her about this and she said it sounds made up.

  • 0

    y3chome

    Whereas everything you read from the Associated Press and Reuters is god's honest truth, right?

    Tends to be closer to the truth. Relatively anyway. Think you will not find many people for whom "kuchikomi" is a trusted news source. Even The Sun is probably more reliable.

  • 3

    Gurukun

    I see nothing wrong with getting completely drunk once in a while (like a few (2-3) times a year)..

    It's that "one time" out of the 2 or three that can change your life forever. It's best to drink in moderation. Ask that one guy from SMAP...not to mention any names.

  • -7

    cleo

    What kind of parent sends an 18-year-old student to Tokyo with a dog?

  • 18

    Virtuoso

    What kind of parent sends an 18-year-old student to Tokyo with a dog?

    Mine sent me to Tokyo without a dog :(

  • 4

    Yubaru

    What kind of parent sends an 18-year-old student to Tokyo with a dog?

    Her parents sent her off to college and had her take the dog along for companionship.

    Anything in moderation is fine! But what is moderate for me is certainly not moderate for my wife, she has a couple of beers a day to help relax her and go to sleep. Rather have her doing that then getting hooked on sleeping pills or something worse.

    Me? I think beer was invented to replace water, and man can not live on bread alone he needs beer!

  • 12

    Disillusioned

    Why the increasing number of alcoholic women in their 20s?

    Why? I have an answer, but the mods will probably delete it: Have you seen the choice of young herbivore guys they have to date? With their manga haircuts, perfumes, girly giggles, man bags, jewelry and daintily crossing their legs higher than any woman I have ever seen. Gawd! It is no surprise young Japanese girls are alcoholics. They have nothing better to do.

  • -1

    cleo

    Her parents sent her off to college and had her take the dog along for companionship.

    Typical student accommodation (or accommodation typical students can afford) in Tokyo does not allow pets. So, were this girl's parents stinking rich, that they could afford to set her up in a pets-welcome mansion in Tokyo? If so methinks there were other factors (spoiled childhood, mollycoddling, money-solves-every-problem-type parenting) involved in her inability to cope with the real world and her descent into alcohol dependency. Losing a dog is hard, but it doesn't turn a person into an alcoholic.

  • 0

    GW

    mabo,

    The 3large bottles are almost 6 six cans of the 355ml variety, not a lot but if yr quaffing around 6/day its likely too much, certainly once yr youth is in the past for sure.

  • 0

    GW

    I have a marriage problem getting in the way of my drinking. I'd like to drink more, but wife is not a drinker and doesn't tolerate me drinking more than once a week, and in moderation.

    Akula,

    Its time for you to have a chat with the mrs, my wife hounds me a bit now & then, she worries about my health, its good, sometimes she is even right! But if yr case is as you wrote it you need to fix it, otherwise it wont just be booz that will be a problem, fix it, be nice, reasonable but fix, if you dont there will be more & more to come & you will get to the point where you dead walking in the front door & that WUD SUCK!

  • 0

    genji17

    probably more from the superficial relationships, lack of support and the loss combination made it easy to slip down the slippery slope. Not much of an outlet here for stress, and relationships are fairly superficial for the most part. Everyones answer here for stress is to throw some back...

  • 2

    DentShop

    One thing that worries me, and a lot of people who have seen similar things, is when women bring their kids to the izakaya at 9pm or later.

    Kids as young as those in pushers are dragged into the smoky dens while mum puts away a few drinks. The kids curl up on the tatami and it seems to be their regular routine. Not only is it unhealthy physically and emotionally for the kids, but mum would save quite a bit of money by drinking at home.

    I would love to say I have only seen this once and it was an isolated incident, but I have seen it a few times from different women and other people tell me they have seen the same thing.

  • -4

    MaboDofuIsSpicy

    Hi GW,

    I understand the volume, but 6 cans over 6 hours while watching some movies will never hurt you.

    But it is true, some people are genetically wired for it.

    One of my sisters and brothers are alcoholics. What a mess they made of it, but both doing pretty well now.

  • -3

    GW

    Folks,

    The J-govt keeps booz & cigs cheap so the masses can indulge & forget about the crap in their lives, believe me booz/cigs ARE THE OPIATES FOR THE MASSES HERE! Japan wudnt "work" the way it does if booz/cigs were too expensive, think about it

  • 2

    cactusJack

    It is all the marketing focused on women nowadays: Cocktails in a can & targeted beer brands for women.

  • -3

    Wurthington

    I think they drink because Japanese men are boring and self centered and Japan itself it a male dominated society. This phsycologist blames it on loss... but what about just lack of any type of meaningful life in a male and corporate dominated society.

  • 4

    Reckless

    Look to Europe. They drink beer for lunch and thereafter. I think alcoholism is a true disease, but continually refining the definition to include casual drinkers who drink more than you drink is childish. Several drinks a day will do no harm and for those who enjoy spirits you have a higher probability of a longer life with less disease (as long as you don't drink and drive and aren't violent). My pops owned a bar, and the "alcoholics" had to start the day with a shot or they would shake. A true alcoholic came to our bbq and finished a case of beer in one sitting. 3-4 drinks a day is nothing in comparison.

  • 2

    sakurala

    DentShop: I don't worry about the moms who occasionally bring their kids with them to the izakaya...at least they a) remember they have kids b) don't leave them unattended at home and c) will hopefully drink socially rather than binge. Coming from a home with 2 alchoholic parents, I would much rather have been taking out to a pub then rather watch my parents drink themselves stupid and the DV that ensued.

    Alchoholism is a tricky thing because most people just don't think they are sick...they just think they like to drink. But I think it is starting to gain recognition in Japan and I have seen pamphlets advertising councelling services. Hopefully these young women get the help they need before the destroy their lives (and others as well).

  • 3

    sakurala

    wurthington: I partly agree...a lot of women get their prince and dream wedding and afterwards many decide to be housewives. They think life will be great with cake sets and possibly some cute little ones. However, some may grow bored by the monotony and drink to kill the time. I know that's how my mother became an alch-y. But to say it is because the men are boring and that society causes them to drink seems a little unfair. It is part choice, part genetics and part availability.

  • 3

    Greapper1

    i'd be an alcoholic if beer wasn't so expensive...

  • 2

    BurakuminDes

    Losing a dog is hard, but it doesn't turn a person into an alcoholic.

    I dunno - a lot of country music is based around this very theme! As for drinking, 2-3 glasses every night, no probs. Red wine (Australian of course) is great in the winter, and healthier than cheap spirits. Just give your liver a rest 1 or 2 nights a week!

  • 2

    Farmboy

    There’s no ambiguity about the numbers, though. In 2008 the health ministry released statistics showing the number of women who drank – not necessarily to excess – had risen 4-fold in 40 years. Today, among people in their early 20s, more women drink than men – 90.4% versus 83.5%.

    I think there IS some ambiguity about the numbers. It's a mistake to confuse alcoholics with people who drink. Drinking is no problem from some, and a HUGE problem for others. The numbers above don't really demonstrate an increase in alcoholism among women, though perhaps there is support elsewhere in other data.

  • 1

    Nicky Washida

    The question is what is causing the increase - and this article doesnt seem to be addressing that question directly. Women have always had the same phsysiology, and psychology issues in terms of deceased pets, broken relationships and so forth, so that leaves the increase being down to social factors. This I can see being a true cause.

    Loneliness, work stress, keeping up with the boys at post-work drinking sessions and so forth. And that is just the ones who arent yet Mothers! kindie mums can put away some serious plonk when they get together!

    I agree that it is a combination of factors including an "addiction" gene, that makes would would be normal drinking easy to slide out of control.

    The same issue regularly comes up in the press back home too. I would be interested to know the official definition of "alcoholic" though. My dads counsellor said you can not have a drink for 20 years and you will still be an "alcoholic" so I guess it depends on whether you can control it, rather than how much you drink.

    Living with an addict is soul-destroying. There is absolutely nothing you can do for them unless they want to help themselves, and most of them will not even acknowledge they have a problem. I love a drink, but I am very very conscious of how much I have and when to stop for obvious reasons.

  • 1

    HumanTarget

    3 large bottles is a lot of alcohol. I used to drink 3 small cans a night as my one indulgence in an otherwise strict diet and hardworking lifestyle, but I could literally feel my tolerance increasing and cut back. It's worth noting that I believe the medical definition of a "heavy drinker" is different in Japan and the west. In the US, a "moderate drinker" will drink no more than 3 cans of beer per day. In some article I read recently, I learned that the Japanese definition of a "heavy drinker" is pretty significant - I think it was around 6 tall cans a day.

    Also, I think it's much more worthwhile to pay attention to the warning signs rather than the amount: Are you drinking alone, lying to friends about your habits, drinking before sundown, curing hangovers with a beer, etc.

  • -2

    goinggoinggone

    Akula, you are very lucky to have a wife who cares so much about you and your health and wellbeing. What is wrong with drinking once a week and in moderation, once you are a grown up with responsibilities?

  • 1

    dolphingirl

    I think there IS some ambiguity about the numbers. It's a mistake to confuse alcoholics with people who drink. Drinking is no problem from some, and a HUGE problem for others. The numbers above don't really demonstrate an increase in alcoholism among women, though perhaps there is support elsewhere in other data.

    Excellent point. Just because more women in their early 20's are drinking (if that is even really true) doesn't necessarily mean that more women are becoming alcoholics.

    I think it is also important to define alcoholic. Here's one I found: 'Alcoholism is a primary illness or disorder characterised by some loss of control over drinking, with habituation or addiction to the drug alcohol, causing interference in any major life function, e.g. health, family, job, spiritual, friends,legal."'

    It's not so much about how much a person is drinking but how the drinking is affecting and controlling his/her life.

    It is also important to define what 'a drink' is. It is often defined as 10 grams of alcohol (1/8 of a bottle of wine, or about 2/3 of a bottle of beer) So if you say I have 3 cans of beer every night that is more like 4 drinks.

    It's true that women are affected by alcohol more than men and therefore women need to be more careful about how much and how often they drink. As to why more young women are drinking, well, I'm sure there are many factors including social pressures, stress, boredom, loneliness, etc.

  • 0

    oginome

    So many people are in denial about their drink dependency....

  • 3

    choiwaruoyaji

    What kind of parent sends an 18-year-old student to Tokyo with a dog?

    A parent who doesn't want to take care of the dog...

  • 3

    choiwaruoyaji

    To be honest, I love it when Japanese women get a bit drunk. I love to see their red faces and hear them laughing and shouting and having a good time.

    If they're hitting the bottle every night then that's not good but absolutely nothing wrong with a good old booze up now and again. For young people I'd even say once a week is fine. I hope they all have a lot of fun.

    One other group of Japanese female drinkers that is a cause for concern are the "kitchen drinkers"... they can cause all kinds of problems... like no beer or wine left when you want a tipple in the evening.

  • 2

    CapnSinbad

    As Groucho Marx once said: "I feel sorry for non-drinkers, when they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day." 'nuff said.

  • 0

    smithinjapan

    There's a reason alcoholism, or just plain over-drinking, is increasing over the years and that's because the excuses to do so are increasing. When I came to Japan I remember there being drinking party after drinking party -- and I'm not talking about going out with my friends I'm talking about work enkais -- bonenkai, shinenkai, this enkai, that enkai.

  • -1

    smithinjapan

    Meant to add that since women have increased in the workplace over the last 40 years it stands to reason there will be more women going out on said enkais.

  • 1

    DentShop

    As Groucho Marx once said: "I feel sorry for non-drinkers....

    That was Deano not Groucho Marx

  • 0

    Novenachama

    Keeping tabs on your alcohol intake can keep you on the safe side of alcohol intake by recognizing when its time to cut down such as drinking larger amounts to get the same effect or doing things when you're drunk that you go on to seriously regret or missing an appointment because of a hangover or binge drinking meaning going without for some time and then drinking excessively in one period. However if you've woken up to the fact that you need to cut down or quit your doctor can help and advise you on keeping it together during the cold turkey period. Counseling can add extra help and keep yourself busy to overcome boredom and be vigilant. Last of all reach out for support from friends and families. They'll want to help, but you have to ask. But honestly drinking of alcohol is not wise because it's going to beat you up. The brain and mind is going to take a beating. Alcohol destroys both the physical and mental faculties of the body.

  • 1

    oginome

    If you're panicking because you haven't got your daily dose of alcohol, then you're an alcoholic, simple as.

  • 2

    LH10

    LOVE MY LIQUOR! never gunna give it up ^o^

  • 0

    goinggoinggone

    Alcohol abuse destroys lives, not only of the drinker, but also the family who loves that person, or tries to love them despite the idiotic stunts they pull, the vomit left for others to clear up, the wreckless behavior, the lack of care for anything apart from the bottle and how fun others think they are when they drink.

    When you roll in at 4am, for the third time that week, puke on the floor, make your children cry, and collapse in a stinking whiskey soaked heap, you are not having fun, you are destroying lives.

  • -1

    NetNinja

    Unfortunately, these alcoholic women become mothers. Social services need to be more active and remove children from homes where the mother gets inebriated to the point where she can no longer perform her duties as a parent.

    If you aren't going to have children, then drink as much as you like. It's a free world. Can't say where you might wake up but you're still free to drink.

  • 0

    goinggoinggone

    ..and alcoholic men become fathers, Net, and their kids lose out on a loving and involved father who would rather get lost in a bottle than throw a baseball for them. Both alcoholic men and women have no business being parents.

  • -4

    goinggoinggone

    You know, the more I think about it, the more I agree with you, Net. Japanese women in general make awful, selfish mothers from what Ive seen. These women in their 20s who go on to have families, down a few bottles of wine with their yoichien friends, neglect their children and cheat on their husbands give all women a bad name. It sounds like you got burnt badly by a woman, Net, and Im sorry I gave you a tough time. So many of them are just looking for a man who earns more than their current spouse to fund their handbag collection, and they dont care whose marriage they split up, let alone who their drinking affects.

  • 3

    Elbuda Mexicano

    These get drunk to try and make up for their loneliness!! Good loving would get people off the bottle and back in bed or the futon or the floor! IMHO

  • 3

    Fadamor

    Me? I think beer was invented to replace water, and man can not live on bread alone he needs beer!

    ??? Bread contains yeast and grain. Beer contains yeast and grain. Therefore Beer = Bread. I use beer as my daily bread requirement from the food pyramid.

  • 2

    LH10

    @goinggoinggone

    japanese women make awful mothers?! WTF! no they don't! any women can be awful mothers. rotten tomatoes to your message. rude~!

  • 0

    edbardoe

    Let the poor girls drink in peace! Does no one understand that these never ending "crises" are just excuses for more government programs to be staffed by staff sure to kick back for politicians campaigns, and provide "the government announced today" news stories for lazy journalists?

  • 3

    Allison Honig

    I wonder what kind of dog it was.....

  • 0

    kaketama

    It's partly because more and more women have the similar right as the men have and participate in the society. it's a shame that in Japanese society, it's typical to let their stress out by drinking. And today, unlike the past, there are little objection for women to drink alcohol. As the article mentioned, women have smaller capability of drinking alcohol. So if women had similar amount of alcohol as men did, the number of alcoholic women would increase.

  • 0

    MaboDofuIsSpicy

    Me too Allison. I love dogs and Orange Juice with Shouchu.

    It is Friday girls. See you at the local Izakaya!

  • 0

    James Howard

    I love to read other people message, I hope they love to read my messages when I have one too many.

  • 0

    John Constantine

    I use to drink a ton but I had problems....It is called "Time Travel" it would 9 at night..and all is well, I keep drinking then its eleven...suddenly its 2 in the morning then the next thing I know I am waking up. I'm wondering what did I do, where did the 20 bucks in my hand come from...why am I in the alley and where the hell are my pants?

  • -2

    tranel

    Dogs have more honor, dignity and courage in their rear left paw than all of the human race together. I feel precisely zero compassion for the drunkard girl in the story, but the dog died patiently waiting for its master to come home - and probably showed 100% love and affection up until the very end, even as it didn't receive any back. Heartbreaking.

  • -1

    6wings

    "A man who drinks three large bottles of beer every day might become an alcoholic in 15 years"

    Wow, it takes a lot of effort to become an alcoholic! I'm just not dedicated enough...

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