UK women named world’s biggest female binge drinkers

Bartender pouring alcohol from the bottle into the glasses - Happy friends group hanging out on weekend night at cocktail bar venue - Life style concept with barman making drinks and serves customers
Binge drinking is defined as having at least six drinks in a single session. (Getty Images)

New research has shown that British women rank at the top of the international list for binge drinking - defined as having at least six drinks in a single session.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) compared alcohol consumption across 33 countries and found 26% of UK women were binge drinking at least once a month. The proportion is more than twice the OECD average of 12%.

Women in Denmark share the top position for binge drinking in developed countries, followed by Luxembourg, Germany, the USA, Ireland, and Belgium.

British men remain significantly more likely than women to indulge in “heavy episodic drinking”, with 45% doing so at least once a month compared to the OECD average of 27%. However, they do not rank as highly as men from Romania, Denmark and Luxembourg.

Karen Tyrell, CEO of the charity Drinkaware, said: "Binge drinking has long been a concern in British drinking culture. The Chief Medical Officer's guidelines recommend that to keep risk low, we drink 14 units or fewer a week, avoid binge drinking and have several drink free days. If you are unsure about how much you’re drinking, take the Drinkaware Drinking Check and get help to make a change. If you are worried, you should see your GP for support.”

High angle view of diverse group of young friends cheering with glasses of fruit wine during a fun birthday party celebration.
British women ranked the highest among developed countries for female binge drinking, according to the OECD. (Getty Images)

According to the NHS, it’s recommended to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol or more, spread across three days or more - equivalent to around six medium (175ml) glasses of wine, or six pints of 4% beer.

Effects of binge drinking

The NHS warns that regularly drinking more than the recommended weekly volume of alcohol can increase the risk of damaging your health. Over one or two decades of heavy drinking on a regular basis can lead to:

  • Mouth cancer, throat cancer and breast cancer

  • Stroke

  • Heart disease

  • Liver disease

  • Brain damage

  • Damage to the nervous system

  • Worsened mental health

Cutting down on alcohol consumption can bring many health benefits, with improvements to nearly every part of your body including hair, skin, nails, and general health.


Woman have damaged and broken hair, loss hair, dry problem concept.
Experts say that drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can cause your hair to feel dry and brittle. (Getty Images)

Dr Greg Vida, senior surgeon at Harley Street Hair Clinic, tells Yahoo UK overindulging in alcohol consumption can have an impact on hair damage and hair loss.

Alcohol is a diuretic, which may lead to dehydration that can cause your hair to become dry, brittle, and make it prone to breakage. Excessive consumption can also deplete levels of zinc and iron in the body, two key minerals to maintaining healthy and strong hair.


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Drinking lots of alcohol on a regular basis can also impact your skin's appearance. (Getty Images)

The dehydration caused by alcohol consumption can also impact your skin, Dr Sebastian Bejma of Bejma Medical Clinic says. Dehydrated skin can appear dull and lacklustre, and lead to dark circles under the eyes, itchiness, fine lines and wrinkles.

He adds: “Alcohol also causes inflammation and stimulates the release of histamines, which... results in a flushed appearance. In addition to this, alcohol... can negatively impact our levels of hyaluronic acid, which is produced naturally to help the body and skin retain water and aid tissue health and hydration, and vitamin A - which is important for collagen production.”


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Excessive alcohol consumption can also impact your mouth health, leading to conditions like gum disease. (Getty Images)

Drinking too much alcohol can also impact your mouth and teeth health. Amanda Sheehan, dental therapist for leading oral health brand TePe, points to research that has suggested links between alcohol and oral cancer, periodontal disease, halitosis and staining.

Dehydration caused by alcohol can reduce the flow of saliva, which can encourage harmful bacteria to develop in the mouth. Alcoholic drinks that are high in sugar and acid can also cause plaque to build up and lead to gum inflammation (gingivitis).

Sheehan says: "As oral health plays a key role in our overall wellbeing, it is important that we are aware of the risks associated with alcohol consumption and understand how we can help keep our teeth and gums healthy. Lifestyle habits, such as eating a balanced diet, cutting down on alcohol consumption and not smoking play an important role in maintaining good oral health, combined with an effective oral hygiene routine."

Overall health

Dr Elise Dallas, women's health GP at The London General Practice, says that cutting down on alcohol can have a "profound impact" on your overall health and wellbeing. People who reduce their alcohol consumption significantly will likely see improvements in liver function, weight management, sleep, mental health, cardiovascular health, and immunity.

"Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to the accumulation of fat in the liver, a condition known as fatty liver disease," Dr Dallas says. "The good news is that, in many cases, this condition is reversible. When you reduce or eliminate alcohol intake, your liver has a chance to heal." Cutting down on alcohol can also reduce the risk of more severe liver conditions like alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis.

As alcohol is also linked to raised blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease, reducing your intake can "help maintain healthy blood pressure and lower the risk of cardiovascular problems".

Katie Tryon, director of health and strategy at Vitality, recommends cutting out alcohol for a month - for instance, during Sober October or Dry January. She says you will start “noticing an improvement in things like your skin, sleep and mental clarity”.

“Many often use this time to build other healthy habits, like increasing physical activity and paying closer attention to nutrition. These changes, alongside not drinking, can give an incredible boost to your overall mood increasing the likelihood of you sustaining healthy habits in the long run,” she explains.

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