Study reveals binge drinking gender bias

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Credit - Flickr

Credit – Flickr

Claire Thomson
Deputy Editor

A study by the University of Glasgow and Glasgow Caledonian University has found that the UK media portrays women who binge drink more negatively than their male counterparts.

The study, published in BMJ Open, involved “quantitative and qualitative content analysis of 308 articles published in 7 UK national newspapers and the BBC News website between 1 January 2012 and 31 December 2013.”

Of the 308 articles studied, the highest proportion came from The Sun at 20.2%, followed by the Guardian/Observer at 18.8% and the Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday at 17.5%.

The researchers found that despite men drinking more in general, more column inches were dedicated to women’s binge drinking, and their behaviours were depicted in a more negative manner.

The study found that articles about women’s drinking often focussed on the effects of drinking on women’s appearances, and that the articles also “made mention of unintentional exposure of underwear or body parts by women, which was in contrast to men, who were typically described as exposed their genitalia deliberately.”

Articles were also found to depict intoxicated women as “burdening male partners.” Whereas “no articles characterised ‘binge’ drinking men as relying on, or burdening their partners.”

The study argued that the “disproportionate focus” on female binge drinking “may reproduce harmful gender stereotypes and may obstruct public understandings of the gender-neutral weekly consumption limits in newly proposed alcohol guidelines.”

University of Glasgow researcher Chris Patterson said: “Media coverage of women’s binge drinking isn’t just about health or public disorder; it also performs a moralising, paternalistic role, reflecting broader social expectations about women’s public behaviour.

“Evidence suggests that the public view binge drinking as a masculine activity and statistics tell us that men do drink more than women in reality, but the media are depicting a different story.”

He added: “If the media feel a responsibility to inform the public, they might seek to help us understand what constitutes harmful drinking, and what the risks of it are, without promoting harmful stereotypes that get in the way of evidence-based facts.”

Researcher Dr Carol Emslie, from Glasgow Caledonian University, 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.”