Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Thin Red Wine Line

So, another study came out last week that completely and utterly applies to this group of bloggers and pretty much everyone we know (probably including you!). I don't know the official name of the study, but it might as well be called, "Hey SmartyPants….You're Wasted!"

By some stroke of unbelievable timing and luck, I just happened to be on my first "wagon" last week since joining Weight Watchers. The only reason being was that I found a hole in my social calendar that would allow me to not drink for one whole week….if I set my mind to it. And thankfully, I did. Because if I had read this study while going about my usual ways, I might have had a panic attack and a serious Google session of "Betty Ford Clinic." To my relief and surprise, the week went by relatively easily and effortlessly. I discovered I would have turned to the bottle that week, mostly out of habit, rather than necessity. So that was nice to be reminded of.

The main crux of the study is this line right here: "The more educated women are, the more likely they are to drink alcohol on most days and to report having problems due to their drinking patterns." A few of the reasons being: we’ve got more money (to waste), we put off having kids til the last possible minute and then some (Hi, Invitro!), and we're around "The Guys" a lot more (keg stand!).

After reading through the article (below), I can safely say that every point applies to myself -- except for this "problem" word. Where do we draw this line? How do you know if your drinking is considered a "problem"? If I can stop on a dime for a week, am I good to go? Or is there untold damage to my liver? If I have a Mimosa after a big night out (or just because), am I a morning drinker? Or just enjoying a Sunday brunch ritual? What is the difference between a "healthy" dose of red wine every day….and being a "wino"? Well, regardless, I don't think any of us Winos have any intention of changing our SmartyPants habits anytime soon. Hence the theme of this whole blog: Losing weight while keeping drinking.

Here is the article/study, with a few of my own notes thrown in…

Cleverest women are the heaviest drinkers
Women who went to university consume more alcohol than their less-highly-educated counterparts, a major study has found.
By Roger Dobson

Those with degrees are almost twice as likely to drink daily (check!), and they are also more likely to admit to having a drinking problem (I admit nothing).

A similar link between educational attainment and alcohol consumption is seen among men, but the correlation is less strong (figures).

The findings come from a comprehensive study carried out at the London School of Economics in which researchers tracked the lives of thousands of 39-year-old women and men, all born in the UK during the same week in 1970.

The report concludes: "The more educated women are, the more likely they are to drink alcohol on most days and to report having problems due to their drinking patterns.
"The better-educated appear to be the ones who engage the most in problematic patterns of alcohol consumption."

Women's alcohol consumption can even be predicted from their scores in school tests taken when they are as as young as five (wow!).

Women who achieved "medium" or "high" test marks as schoolgirls are up to 2.1 times more likely to drink daily as adults.

The authors of the report, Francesca Borgonovi and Maria Huerta, suggest several possible explanations as to why better-educated women drink more.

They tend to have children later (zero percent mothers author this blog), postponing the responsibilities of parenthood (and many other responsibilities; I can't even seem to pick up my dry cleaning!). They may have more active social lives (cha!) or work in male-dominated workplaces with a drinking culture (do gay males count?).

As girls, they may have grown up in middle-class families and seen their parents drink regularly (mom cooking dinner with a glass of wine in hand).

In the long-term study, the LSE team followed all the people born in Britain during one week in 1970, asking them questions about their lifestyle at regular periods throughout their lives.
The number of people for whom information was available has varied over the course of the research between 9,665 and 17,287.

The researchers took account of each individual's school test results and level of academic attainment, as well as their answers to regularly-administered surveys in which they were asked questions such as "Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?" (sure) and "Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover?" (only on weekends or vacations; that makes it ok, right?!)
Women with some educational qualifications were 71 per cent more likely to drink on most days compared to women with no qualifications. Women with degree-level qualifications were 86 per cent more likely to do so (that's a solid "B"!).

Higher educated women were 1.7 times more likely to have a drinking problem, as assessed through their questionnaire answers, than their less-well-educated counterparts.
Women who scored highly in tests while at school were also at greater risk of having drinking problems.

Whereas women with medium or high childhood test scores were up to 2.1 times more likely to have a drink most days, men who scored similarly-high scores were only 49 per cent more likely to do so.

"Both males and females who achieved high-level performance in test scores administered at ages five and 10 are significantly more likely to abuse alcohol than individuals who performed poorly on those tests," says the report, in the journal Social Science and Medicine.

According to the study, a substantial part of the educational effect is likely to be due to better-educated women having more opportunities and tending to have middle-class lifestyles, exposing them to circumstances that favour alcohol consumption.

"Reasons for the positive association of education and drinking behaviours may include: a more intensive social life that encourages alcohol intake (yup); a greater engagement into traditionally male spheres of life (Lets Go Giants!), a greater social acceptability of alcohol use and abuse (the MORE the merrier!); more exposure to alcohol use during formative years (started at 16, and that was considered "late"); and greater postponement of childbearing and its responsibilities among the better educated (or completely ignore)," says the report.

Commenting on the findings, a spokesman for the Alcohol Concern charity said: "This raises concerns which need to be addressed.

"People with higher qualifications have more disposable income, and we have seen a trend where there has been an increase in the marketing of wine, particularly aimed at working women (umhum) .

"People who abuse alcohol face a higher risk of suffering from health problems incluidng cancer, liver cirrhosis, lung and cardiovascular disease, and mental and behavioural issues." (would also add "falling down due to dance party" to this list)


  1. Since we're all so educated, we also know when enough is enough.

    Also, a recent work up of blood tests for a routine physical showed my kidney to be working just swell.

    With the combination weight loss + social life, it seems to balance everything out.

  2. Well, you could always switch to meth, which I suspect doesn't have the same correlation of usage to educational level plus has the added benefit of accelerated weight loss. Then again, it assuredly comes with its own set of problems. Tooth and job loss come to mind. Probably best to stick with the wine.