Insight: Oct 10

This week, Insight asks: why are women over 40 drinking more?

“This is not a teenage story. These are women who are usually highly functioning, career and motherhood oriented, who then begin or return to drinking later in life”, says Dr Janice Withnall, a Western Sydney University researcher who conducted a seven-year study on the issue.

Why are women drinking more later in life?

“I’d gone from having quite a big career to now being at home with kids and you can’t leave at four o’clock and go for a run”, says Sally Doran, 42, a mum of two who travelled the world as a theatrical producer before having children. After her second child was born she was up to a bottle of wine a night.

“So it’s like, this is how you relax, you’re a mum, have a wine.” She says it was normalised on social media. “My Facebook messenger is all of my mum friends – ‘it’s five o’clock we’re having wine’. It’s so acceptable – that’s how you deal with being a parent.”

Helen Pennington, 69 – who says she can drink up to a bottle of wine in one sitting – started drinking in her late forties when she moved from regional Western Australia to Perth. By then her children were grown and gone. She says mixing with her neighbours was the reason she started.

“They were wine drinkers and they introduced us to wine, which I’d never really had much to do with, and so it’s gone progressively from there.”

Others say it’s because drinking is ingrained in the culture. “I was raised to think that it’s un-Australian not to drink”, says mum of three Karen Murray, 50, who drinks three to six Canadian Club whiskies almost every day despite health issues.

“I’ve really tried to be as healthy as possible, but it still creeps back in and I don’t understand why. Why can’t I just stop it for the sake of my own health?”

Tuesdays at 8.30pm on SBS.

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