How Alcohol Affects Males and Females Differently 

Most people generally understand that alcohol affects males and females differently, but what does that mean – what are the differences and why?

Biological Differences

According to NIH, one reason alcohol affects males and females differently “is that alcohol resides predominantly in body water, and pound for pound, women have less water in their bodies than men. This means that after a woman and a man of the same weight drink the same amount of alcohol, the woman’s BAC will tend to be higher, putting her at greater risk for harm. Other biological differences may contribute as well.”1

Susceptibility to Alcohol Misuse

The Surgeon General’s Report states that “some groups of people are also more vulnerable to substance misuse and substance use disorders. For example, men tend to drink more than women and they are at higher risk for alcohol use disorder.”2

Different Health Implications

According to the CDC:

Although men are more likely to drink alcohol and consume larger amounts, biological differences in body structure and chemistry lead most women to absorb more alcohol and take longer to metabolize it. After drinking the same amount of alcohol, women tend to have higher blood alcohol levels than men, and the immediate effects of alcohol usually occur more quickly and last longer in women than men. These differences make women more susceptible to the long-term negative health effects of alcohol compared with men. 3

The CDC explains that certain diseases are more common in men and studies have reported an increased risk of associated with alcohol consumption, particularly excessive consumption: “Alcohol use is one of the most important preventable risk factors for cancer. Alcohol use increases the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon, which are more common among men. Drinking alcohol also increases the risk of prostate cancer.”4

The CDC also states that women who consume alcohol are at an increased risk of experiencing certain health conditions than men who also consume alcohol; for example, they note that the risk of cirrhosis and other alcohol-related liver diseases is higher for women compared to men, and that women who drink excessively have an increased risk of experiencing heart damage more quickly, compared to men, even at lower levels of consumption. CDC also says that “alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon. In women, drinking is also associated with breast cancer, even at low levels of consumption.”5


  1. Why do women face higher risks for alcohol-related consequences?
  2. Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health
  3. Excessive Alcohol Use is a Risk to Women’s Health
  4. Excessive Alcohol Use is a Risk to Men’s Health | CDC
  5. Excessive Alcohol Use is a Risk to Women’s Health | CDC