UCL News


Little and often best practice for women drinkers

20 February 2004

Women who either abstain from alcohol or drink heavily are at higher risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) than those who drink moderately, according to new UCL research.

The 'Whitehall II' study led by Professor Sir Michael Marmot (Epidemiology & Public Health) examined 10,000 male and female civil servants aged between 35 and 55 years at baseline, to determine the effects of drinking habits in relation to CHD and mortality rates after an average of 11 years follow up.

Dr Annie Britton and Professor Marmot found that mortality rates among female participants were seven times higher for those who drank more than twice a day, compared to women who indulged once or twice a week. The difference for men was much less, with those drinking more frequently at only two-and-a-half times greater risk.

Teetotal women were also found to have an 80% increased risk of CHD compared to those who drank little and often.

Dr Britton said: "Many previous studies have focused on the risks experienced by middle-aged men, but we are becoming increasingly aware that alcohol consumption among women is a real health issue."

The study also revealed that alcohol consumption was higher among those in senior employment positions. 13% of women in high-grade jobs consumed more than 21 units per week, in comparison to only 2% of those in lower-grade jobs.

Dr Britton added: "It is also becoming increasingly clear that it is important to measure how frequently people drink as well as how much they drink. This study shows, for example, that women who ignore government advice to drink little and often and avoid bingeing face a higher risk of mortality and CHD. Women who abstain completely also face a higher risk."

To find out more about the study, use the link below.

Link: Whitehall II study