Wednesday, 13 May 2015

We're in the News!

The front page of the UK's Daily Mail newspaper today reads "WARNING OVER MIDDLE-CLASS WOMEN DRINKERS." (If you want to read the full article click here)

Who knew? Well, all of us on this site, actually!

Apparently an OECD study has revealed that, in a study of 34 Western countries, the UK has the highest number of female graduates drinking 'hazardously' (20%, compared with only 10% of less educated women).

There is a direct link between your likelihood of being a problem drinker and the number of years you spent in education. Well that was three years at university well spent, wasn't it?

Mark Pearson of the OECD says "women are adopting men's drinking habits and they are not healthy...As women have moved into the labour market they have adapted to the male culture. Jobs where you can earn more are more likely to be jobs that have a lot of networking. It's the dark side of equality."

The study states that two thirds of alcohol in the UK is drunk by just 20% of adults. That proportion may have dropped since I quit 73 days ago. I swear my local off licence has seen a huge drop in profits.

The report also shows that the highest proportion of hazardous drinkers are in the 45-64 age group. Yep, that's me again (although only just, I hasten to add).

The OECD suggest that women with higher education tend to have more stressful jobs, more opportunities for socialisation and delayed pregnancies, all of which can lead to heavy drinking.

Apparently 'much of it is done at home, away from public view,' aided by supermarket online delivery services. Ocado: the neighbourhood drug dealer of the middle classes!

None of this is much surprise to me, or - I expect - to any of you. If you delve briefly into the sober blogosphere you'll see that the majority of authors, and readers, are middle aged women.

Many of us drank - heavily but 'normally' for decades thinking that it wasn't really a problem. Back then I would have looked at today's headline with interest, but without much concern.  But then, when we hit our forties something changed.

For me, looking back, the big shift at about the age of forty was the amount of 'headspace' taken up by my drinking. Until then I'd drunk a lot, but I only thought about drinking while I was actually doing it.

But then an increasingly constant, nagging voice appeared (we call her the 'wine witch'). She would say things like "better check to see if there's a spare bottle in the cupboard, just in case.....Have a couple of drinks before you go out so you don't need to drink too much when you get there.......Better not go to the nearest shop to buy wine, you went there yesterday.....Can I ask the air stewardess for an extra glass or will she think I'm a lush?......If the husband pours another glass there won't be enough left for me...."

Forget all the quizzes about how to know if you have a drink problem - if you immediately understand what we mean by the wine witch, you do.

We are the first generation of women whose mothers fought for equality. The ones who went to University and into top jobs and thought it our duty to keep up with the boys, and we're now hitting our forties.

How many of us are out there quietly drinking a bottle at home every night and fighting off the wine witch? Given that we all lie when asked how much we drink, I suspect that the OECD survey massively underestimates the issue.

But, hell, it's good to come top of something!

Onwards and upwards.

SM x

For more on this topic read: Why so many well educated, middle aged women drink too much, and Women and alcohol: a deadly relationship


  1. Well as a 40 something educated-career woman-mum-housewife-waistline getting wider by the minute-wine lover, this article totally woke me up this morning. I read it on DailyMail online and the trail led me to your blog. What a revelation. I am not alone with my naughty secret. So now, to make the decision to stop and to start a new,scary life without my vino friend. Thank you so much for your kind advice via email this morning. I have ordered the book and I am gearing up to make the change. Thanks SM x

    1. It's a pleasure, Hope. Even if your e-mail made me cry! Please stay in touch x

  2. Ha! ...and I thought it was just me that rotated my visits to local wine shops to cover my trail! Day 15 for me :) x

    1. Well done Missy! Do you think the shopkeepers really were judging us, or were we imagining it?

  3. Very interesting. I hadn't really made the connection that although I drunk loads in my twenties I never gave it head space. You are right it started in my forties.

    1. I keep coming across 2 types of 'drinker'. Those who were never ever able to drink 'normally' and those who developed a problem after 40. I wonder if there's a study somewhere on that?

  4. A little harder here in Canada to cover your 'trail" because alcohol is not sold in Supermarkets - but careful rotation of the liquor stores does the trick - plus the odd casual call to husband/stepson to pick up a bottle........and sometimes, I am ashamed to say the mental calculation of how many drinks I've had versus the 5 minute drive to the nearest store....

  5. Apparently my 10 years. Of post secondary education caused more harm than good. Lol

    Actually-I loved to drink in my 20s. I often drank too much, but it was fun. I really found the switch to drinking alone at home brought the wine witch on. Clearly self destructive behaviour.

    I see so many women in this same trap. I wish there was wine witch anonymous.

  6. This is so true for me.
    My drinking increased in my 40's when my teaching job became much harder.
    Started drinking out at happy hours with other stressed teachers, and then went into more hiding at home too.

  7. Interesting article SM. I drank a lot in my 20's, I settled down a bit in my 30's (although when I did drink I think I already had a faulty off switch) and it wasn't until my 40's that the steady, drinking wine at home started. It's amazing to know that I am not alone, because I felt so alone for a long time. A x

  8. I think you are absolutely right, there is no way of obtaining accurate figures for this problem or should I say epidemic. Everyone lies about how much they drink, to others and to themselves. Even the so called 'moderate drinkers' will under estimate.