Women and Alcohol: Epidemic in a Pandemic

Ann Dowsett

April 13th 2022 1:30 pm Neilson Room 1

Session Description

While Ann Dowsett Johnston predicted the shocking rise in risky female drinking in 2013–in her bestselling book Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol–she could not have foreseen what would happen in the recent pandemic. In fact, in the past 18 months, women’s risky use of alcohol has reached epidemic proportions. What we have witnessed is a perfect storm of stress: the so-called “she-cession,” homeschooling, plus a pervasive, invasive environment of anxiety and isolation.

With the pinking of the alcohol industry, women have been in the crosshairs of marketing for decades. Indeed, marketing has played a huge role in selling alcohol as a decompression tool to women, and the message has stuck: mommy-drinking dates, and more. That’s the bad news. The good news? Zoom brought recovery into women’s homes, and a new, largely female-led modern recovery movement has evolved, from The Luckiest Club out of Boston to Hola Sober out of Madrid, plus regular 12-step meetings. This is a fresh development, enticing many women to seek help in a revolutionary new way.

So, we stand at the crossroads: as women’s emergency room visits outpace men’s for alcohol-related issues, as women flood the Zoom rooms, and women absorb the news that 15 per cent of breast cancer cases are alcohol-related and that there is no upside to a glass of red wine, will they also slow down their drinking? Join Ann for a fulsome discussion of this compelling public health issue, where she asks the question: Where do women go from here?

Learning Objective

  • Why women drink for different reasons than men
  • Why the so-called “she-cession” and homeschooling fanned the flames of this epidemic.
  • Why drinking is riskier for women than men


Ann Dowsett Johnston is the bestselling author of Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol named one of the top 10 books of 2013 by the Washington Post. An award-winning journalist who spent the lion’s share of her career at Maclean’s, and winner of two prestigious fellowships, she has also been a vice-principal of McGill University. A graduate of Smith College, Ann is now a practising psychotherapist work working with women, largely on addiction issues. She is also the founder of Writing Your Recovery, a popular memoir-writing course. Last fall, Ann earned an honorary doctorate of laws from Queen’s University–just one of many awards for her work in destigmatizing addiction.

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