For another website, I researched and compiled a list of statistics detailing which sectors of society -- and which societies -- drink the most and the least alcohol. All of these findings were drawn from legitimate scholarly studies. Among the most intriguing stats I uncovered are these:

Men outdrink women by 11 percent.

The rich outdrink the poor by 27 percent.

Homosexuals outdrink heterosexuals by 16 percent.

The number of American women who binge-drink during the first trimesters of their pregnancies has nearly doubled since 2006.

Outdrinking all other nations on earth by far is Uganda.

Among the experts I interviewed for this story was University of North Dakota neuroscience professor Sharon Wilsnack, who has performed much research herself on alcohol-related behaviors, especially as pertain to gender.

"Historically, so much gay drinking went on in gay bars because there was virtually nowhere else where gays could socialize," Wilsnack told me when we discussed the gays-outdrinking-hets statistic, which appears consistently in study after study. "Although that has changed, they still face the chronic stress of being a marginalized group, and one thing alcohol's pretty good at, at least temporarily, is reducing stress."

Her own studies, along with many others, have found that lesbians tend to outdrink gay men.

In the general population, however, men outdrink women across the board.

"In every single country we've looked at," Wilsnack said, "the men drink more than the women. Women in Iceland drink more than men in Israel, but men in Israel drink more than women in Israel and men in Iceland drink more than women in Iceland." In countries with traditionally sky-high female abstinence rates, "the best strategy is not to keep women suppressed by saying, 'You can't drink,' but rather to tell them, 'If you choose to drink, you can do it in a healthier way.'"

As for Uganda, "there's a huge problem with drinking in Uganda and most African countries," Wilsnack said. "The sad thing is that they have so many other problems that drinking doesn't get much attention, yet they're all connected. If you're drunk all the time, you can't get job training and climb out of poverty.

"Traditionally in Africa there has been a huge gender gap where drinking is concerned: Women are the ones who make the alcoholic beverages and men are the ones drinking those beverages," she added. "But these days, with social change and gender change, the question becomes: Will women start drinking more like men? I think they wil.

"But it would be a wonderful natural laboratory for social change to see if you could head off women around the world having serious alcohol-related problems."

Yes, it would. So Happy New Year.

About the Author

Anneli Rufus

Anneli Rufus is the author of many books, including Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto and Stuck: Why We Can't (or Won't) Move On.

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