Women and Alcohol

Studies have found that alcohol consumptions by women and by men have been getting closer and closer since the 1990s, in a fear that more women will suffer from alcohol-related diseases.1 In this connection, the Department of Health particularly urges women to pay more attention to the harm and related effects of drinking, and to make informed choices after understanding the risk.

In addition to making you fat and mentally disturbed, alcohol causes female breast cancer, likewise other cancers and diseases.

  • Alcoholic beverages are classified as a Group 1 carcinogen (cancer-causing to humans) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization, the same grouping as tobacco smoke, asbestos and ionising radiation. Consumption of alcoholic beverages causes cancers of oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colorectum, and female breasts.
  • Even 1.2 unit of drink per day increases the risk of morbidity /mortality of breast cancer by 17%.
  • To effectively prevent cancer, you should stay away from alcohol.

plus More about effects of alcohol on health

If you drink alcohol during pregnancy, your unborn baby might risk permanent damage.

  • Consuming alcohol even at low level during pregnancy may bring physiological and neurodevelopmental harms to your baby.
  • Findings from literature review show that low-to-moderate levels of pregnancy drinking could lead to severe harms to the baby, such as pre-term birth, low birth weight, poor mental development, and increased risk of anxiety and depression in the latter days.
  • Pregnancy drinking can lead to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, including abnormal facial features, problems with the heart, kidneys, or bones, hyperactive behaviour, and learning difficulty.
  • Abstinence from alcohol during pregnancy is the safest choice.

plus Drinking advice to pregnant women

Alcohol affects adolescents' physical, mental and social development, especially brain development. As a family member or an elder, do not let young people drink or encourage them to drink.

  • Research shows that youths with long-term alcohol consumption have poorer memory.
  • Alcohol is a toxin against youth brain development. It affects nervous system development and self-control ability.
  • Youths who start drinking before age 12 are more likely to have violent behaviours or injuries later on due to drinking or to skip lessons.
  • Youths who start drinking before age 18 are more likely to develop alcohol abuse or dependence in adulthood. The risk would be even higher if they started drinking earlier (before age 15).
  • A study by the University of Hong Kong revealed that parents were children’s main sources of alcohol. Parents also often underestimate the severity of underage drinking,
  • Primary and secondary school students residing with parents, siblings and grandparents who were drinkers were more likely to develop drinking habits than those whose families did not.
  • Moreover, children, especially primary school pupils, exposed to pro-drinking practices such as buying alcohol, pouring alcohol and opening bottles for parents were more likely to start underage drinking. Therefore, common prodrinking practices encouraged their children to drink.

plus Tips for parents on youth drinking


1Slade T, Chapman C, Swift W, et al Birth cohort trends in the global epidemiology of alcohol use and alcohol-related harms in men and women: systematic review and metaregression BMJ Open 2016;6:e011827. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-011827