Growing evidence that women are catching up to men when it comes to alcohol consumption is triggering concern.
A study by University of NSW academics Tim Slade, Cath Chapman and Maree Teesson used data from 68 studies in 36 countries - with a total sample size of over four million men and women - and looking back as far back as the early 1900s.
"What we found was that the gap between the sexes has narrowed over time," the trio wrote. "This means that by the end of the last century men’s and women’s drinking had almost reached parity."
Research by Sally Hunt, a clinical psychologist at the University of Newcastle, has also shown the gap has narrowed, and that there is an increase in consumption by women in older age groups.
Dr Hunt, who has been researching the reasons women drink, said Australian data published last year showed those in the 40-to-50 year group were exceeding the “lifetime risk guideline” more frequently.
“If you have three drinks every day, then you are contributing to your lifetime risk because you are not having any alcohol-free days,” she told the Newcastle Herald.
“To me it is clear, as a clinical psychologist, that the reasons women drink are different, in general, to the reasons men drink.
“But most of our harm minimisation messages are targeting the way in which men drink. There’s ‘drink and drive, you’re a bloody idiot’, there is the one with the kid vomiting all over his mate at a party, and another with someone getting into a fight at the pub.
“If you have three drinks every day, then you are contributing to your lifetime risk because you are not having any alcohol-free days,” she said.
“It is that habitual, regular drinking. Once you reach a certain threshold, it is contributing to risk, and women in that age group had significantly increased their rates of exceeding that guideline from 10 years before."
Dr Hunt said alcohol was a known carcinogen.
“Many women are shocked to know that alcohol is an independent risk factor for breast cancer,” she said.
Wagga GP Tracey Purnell said there could be a lot of reasons why statistics showed an increase in drinking levels in women.
Dr Purnell believes social media and the "wine o'clock" memes do have a role to play and that women were also influencing each other.
She said women could also be drinking to alleviate stress or as a "reward" to themselves for with the pressures of balancing work, family and social lives.
"It may also be that women once drank in private and didn't tell anyone about it, but it is now more socially acceptable to see women drinking alcohol," she said.