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Women and Alcohol

Women are more vulnerable than men to alcohol, even after drinking smaller amounts. Overall, women are more likely to exhibit major health problems related to alcohol in a shorter period of time. View, download and print the following resources.

Women's Clinic Card (PDF)


Several factors make women more at risk to the effects of alcohol than men:

  • On average, women have lower body weight than men which means it takes less alcohol to produce the same level of intoxication. 
  • Women contain less water and more fatty tissue than men.  Since fat holds onto alcohol longer and water dilutes it, alcohol remains at a greater strength and for longer periods of time in a woman’s body. 
  • Women have lower levels of an enzyme (alcohol dehydrogenase) in their stomach that breaks down (metabolizes) alcohol.  Because of this, women absorb more alcohol into their bloodstream than men.
  • Changing hormone levels affect how a woman metabolizes alcohol.

Risks of Alcohol Use for Women

  • Breast Cancer
    Research has found that as little as one drink per day can increase the risk of breast cancer for some women. Alcohol is also linked to cancers of the mouth, neck, liver and colon/bowel.
  • Reproductive Problems
    Alcohol can lower fertility in women.

  • Heart Disease and Stroke
    Heavy drinking is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease, especially among women.

  • Brain Damage
    Brain damage is a common result of long-term, heavy alcohol consumption.

  • Addiction
    Women become addicted to alcohol more easily than men. 

  • Liver Damage
    Women are more likely than men to develop problems with their livers due to drinking alcohol.

  • Osteoporosis

Learn more about how you can reduce your alcohol risks.

Understanding Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines

Watch Understanding Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines, which explains Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines. Learn about:

  • What is a “standard drink”?
  • Guidelines to follow to reduce your risks with alcohol
  • When it is important not to drink
Date of creation: January 1, 2013
Last modified on: February 22, 2019




2Harvard Medical School. (2011). Alcohol Use and Abuse. Retrieved from
3National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2008). Alcohol – A Woman’s Health Issue Retrieved from