Binge drinking is cool! Beer before bfs or bffs! Is the new motto it seems for Indian women today.

Alcohol – is an escape from the monotonous life we have succumbed to. Balancing our lives like a pro we deal with  loads of paperwork and at the same time we keep aside time for family and friends. But, by fulfilling all of these requirements we have become performers who entertain the society and its norms. And yet, we have found respite from all of these; alcohol gives us the wings to fly and to tolerate these rules (God bless a glass of late-night wine). Men had succumbed to alcohol long back, but women had held back. Not long ago women didn’t dare to damage their image by showing the world that she in fact drinks and enjoys it too. Now women pour and fill their glasses with more than just lemon water and juice. Wine, beer, whiskey, vodka or a cocktail; women have come to love their drinks and how!

Alcohol consumption among women is rapidly increasing, not only because she wants to relax and have fun but there’s a bigger picture here. Questions like ‘Are women more prone to absorb bigger drinks?’  ‘Do women have higher alcohol levels in their blood than men?’ are being asked and studied.

“More women are drinking and women are drinking more,” a new survey made eye-opening claims — and not for the reasons you’d think.

Why women drink

The survey by the Community Against Drunken Driving (CADD) studied the alcohol consumption pattern in Delhi and has revealed some major reasons behind alcohol consumption among women. Rising affluence, aspirations, societal pressure and exposure to a different lifestyle is driving women to experiment with alcohol, stated the survey. The results were found among 5,000 women aged between 18 to 70 in Delhi.

Among the reasons why women drink, the survey says “mostly all social activities are centred around alcohol, and alcohol is seen as a quick and easy social lubricant, and when everyone is doing the same thing, it does not seem like a problem. It is just the norm.”

“More women are drinking and women are drinking more,” the survey said.

Key Points:

  • Alcohol consumption in India increased by 38 percent between 2010 and 2017, and women’s alcohol market is expected to grow by 25 percent over the next five years.
  • In Delhi itself, 40 percent of men and 20 percent of women (almost 15 lakh women) are alcohol consumers; the survey quotes a report by AIIMS as saying.
  • The reasons why women drink are – rising affluence, aspirations, societal pressure and exposure to a different lifestyle.
  • The survey reveals that 43.7 percent women in the age group of 18-30 years consumed alcohol out of habit or desire to do so, 41.7 percent women in the age group of 31-45 years consumed alcohol due as an occupational requirement or because of social norm.
  • Over 53 percent women above 60 years and 39.1percent women in 46-60 years had alcohol for emotional reasons.

“Driven by the market forces where cocktail and berry drinks are being promoted as feel good and relaxing drinks for women, women are enticed into drinking more with a promise of good time that awaits them,” it says.

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What do women from the industry think?

Mixing drinks and offering the young and happening crowd is Shatbhi Basu’s favourite task in an otherwise male-dominated domain. Basu who is the first-ever female bartender in India, has been worked to carve her own place, says, “Women are more independent today. They are working, traveling and are more confident than ever before. And it’s not a big deal anymore to go out and have a drink with friends. There’s no pressure to drink behind closed doors. It’s also part of social networking and entertaining.”

When asked why she thinks this has happened and what is driving the change, the Mixologist opines, “I guess they are more visible now. So, yes it may appear that more women are drinking. But are they drinking more? I’m not sure I would agree with that or even think it correct to generalise. I’m guessing it’s interlinked to being visible therefore the perception that it follows they drink more! Yet another myth.”

Sonal Holland, Founder of SoHo Wine Club, believes, “Traditionally, women in India have not openly indulged in alcohol due to societal restrictions and cultural inhibitions. However, wine’s softer image has made it more attractive to female consumers.” Findings on India Wine Insider, a comprehensive research report founded by Sonal Holland MW, on the awareness, attitudes and consumption of wine among urban Indian wine consumers, suggests that an equal number of women purchase and consume wine, as men. She adds, “Women view wine as classy, healthy and a socially more civilized drink to seen drinking amidst family members. These results suggest dissolution of social taboos and cultural inhibitions related to alcohol especially for women, and wine is increasingly being viewed as an acceptable drink within the Indian society.”

Basically, women and wine are a great pairing! – Sonal Holland, India’s first Master of Wine

Alcohol – a social lubricant by women

The CADD survey lists out more reasons why women drink, it says, “At times just to fit in or as a way to unwind, more spending capacity/affluence, another way of equal opportunity or pursuit at work place/profession, alcohol as a coping mechanism to stress, depression, loneliness anxiety, pain, mental and physical traumas and to cope with the needs and pressures of fast paced life.”

According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) study, between 2010 and 2017, alcohol consumption in India increased by 38 percent. “A steady and silent contributor to this growth has been the increased consumption of alcohol among women who were till recently considered the obvious abstainers,” it said in the survey.

So what’s next? The women’s alcohol market is expected to grow by 25 percent over the next five years, it quotes the Indian government’s Centre for Alcohol Studies as saying, “‘Pinking’ of the alcohol market, combined with sustained messaging in movies and on TV that alcohol is the best way for women to relax and reward themselves, is all adding up to the rise,” the CADD survey said.

Read More Stories By Ria Das

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