War & Peat: Women's Drinking On The Rise In Britain

New research shows that alcohol makes drinkers' minds wander, and, because they're drunk, they're not aware of it. Undeterred by this shocking discovery, Brits are boozing more than ever.

The mind-wandering study asked participants to read from Tolstoy's War and Peace and press a key every time they caught themselves thinking about something else. Participants who drank during the study got distracted twice as much as their sober counterparts, but didn't notice it any more often, which will come as no shock to anyone who has ever tried to, say, talk to a philosophy major at a keg party.

While all British minds are doing a bit more booze-induced wandering these days, women showed the biggest increase — 15% now binge once a week, compared to 7% in the mid-90s. Interestingly, the biggest jump in consumption came for women over 65, whose weekly average drinking nearly doubled. Researchers from Oxford Brookes University say women may be drinking more because of advertising, because they have more money, or because — at least in Northern Ireland — they no longer have to worry as much about getting blown up at the bar.

However, another reason may be changes to Britain's incredibly confusing standards for measuring alcohol. According to the Guardian, "Binge drinking is defined as consuming on at least one day a week more than twice the safe limit recommended by the government, which is three to four units of alcohol for a man and two to three units for a woman." The definition of a "unit" changed in 2006, to reflect stronger wine and beer, so now a 175 ml glass of wine is worth two units, while two 125 ml glasses are worth three. The math on this makes no sense even when you're sober. Perhaps if the British government wants to reduce drinking, rather than increasing alcohol taxes, they should make their alcohol guidelines easier to follow than War and Peace.

Alcohol Drinkers Not Only Zone Out — But Also Are Unaware That They Do [ScienceDaily]
Female binge drink rates 'double' [BBC News]
Binge drinking Britain: surge in women consuming harmful amounts of alcohol [Guardian]
More British women drinking to excess [Reuters]