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Alcohol misuse: not just a problem for men

Women and alcohol

When did you have your first drink of alcohol? 

Data tell us Australian men typically have their first drink at 14 years of age, a figure that has changed little between the years of the baby boomers to the times of 'Gen Y'.

But if you're female, your answer is likely to differ to that given by your mum, grandmother or daughter. While women born between 1953-1962 tended to have their first drink at age 17, lagging behind their male counterparts, girls these days have caught up to the boys and typically have their first drink at age 14. 

This is just one of the statistics that was shared today at an industry briefing held today on women, drugs and alcohol. NDARC's Professor Maree Teesson was one of three speakers to address the forum, held at South Pacific Private. 

Other findings shared by Prof Teesson with the audience included: 

  • The number of Australian women aged 20 to 29 with symptoms of alcohol abuse increased by 27,000 between 1997-2007.
  • Young women appear to be starting to use drugs and alcohol at the same time as young men, but experience a “telescoping” effect – that is they are likely to start experiencing problems much sooner than men once they have started using drugs and alcohol.
  • Younger Australians are seeking treatment sooner than previous generations, but young men are more likely to seek treatment than younger women.
  • For physical and mental illness other than substance use women are more likely to seek treatment than males, but not when it comes to substance use disorders.
  • A minority of men and women who develop problems access treatment and on average wait 18 years to seek treatment. Only a third of people with alcohol use disorders will receive treatment over their lifetime.
  • Drug and alcohol school prevention programs work better for females than males.


One of the ways Prof Teesson is working to prevent young women and men from developing alcohol problems is via online school-based prevention programs for 13-14 year olds. 

You can read more about today's briefing here.