Anything you can do, I can do too

Mike the Psych's Blog

Violent offences and sex attacks, increased alcohol consumption and partner abuse, have all increased dramatically for women.

Gone are the days of ladylike behaviour. Increasingly women are copying the worst behaviours of men. They are just as likely as men to troll partners online; they are swearing more than men (who have cut down); and drinking more than ever before.

Teenage girls in the UK are twice more likely than boys to get drunk than almost anywhere else in Europe where it is the other way round. They are also more likely to be drink-driving than men from the age of 30 with a doubling of the number of women convicted for it since 1998.

figure_behind_bars_anim_500_wht_3524There are currently almost a hundred women in prison for violent behaviour, up a third, and over a hundred serving time for serious sexual offences, three times the number, compared to ten years ago.


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British women die younger

doctor_shows_the_way_to_a_woman_1600_wht_8489compared to women in almost every other country in Western Europe.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is urging governments to introduce sugar taxes and raise the price of alcohol as it believes Europeans are the “world champions” of unhealthy living.

British women have the second lowest life expectancy of the 15 western EU countries. 

From the age of 30 to 74 British women have higher death rates than the european average. We have not reduced our alcohol consumption as much as other countries and 63% of UK adults are overweight compared to a european average of 57%.

A baby girl can expect to live to 82.7 in this country with only Denmark worse at 82.1. Spanish women have the longest life expectancy at 85.5 years. But overeating and drinking risk children living shorter lives than their parents.

“there are so many factors, lifestyle but also access to healthcare, early screening and detection of disease, prevention of disease” that could explain the gap said a WHO spokesperson.

Europe as a whole drinks and smokes more than any other part of the world and only America is fatter. (Although England is slightly better than its european neighbours in that regard)

And within England there are variations of up to seven years in women’s life expectancy. “Healthy behaviours, whatever your age, and effective care and support can help people have longer, healthier lives than ever before. There’s only so much medical technology can do“.

Tougher action is needed on the price of cigarettes, alcohol, and unhealthy foods but the government has so far rejected calls for this from health leaders.

What kind of drunk are you?

stick_figure_drunk_500_wht_11670Some psychologists believe that we turn into one of four character types when we are drunk.

Ernest Hemingway – someone who is barely affected by excess alcohol

Mary Poppins – someone whois friendly and compassionate

The Nutty Professor – a quiet type transformed into a confident extrovert

Mr Hyde – someone who becomes menacing and hostile.

The researchers, at the University of Misoouri-Columbia, found that most people who fell into the last category were women!

The largest numbers of drunks, 40%, equally divided between men and women, fall into the Hemingway category who were very similar whether sober or intoxicated with no apparent impact on their intellect or personal organisation.

Previous studies show that conscientiousness and intellect are affected negatively by alcohol so thesis something of a surprise.

Nutty Professor types found it hardest to keep things together. This group comprises 1/5 of us, mainly men.

Mary Poppins types would be compassionate listeners and look after you but only make up 15% of the population. They suffer the least detriment to their conscientiousness and cognitive ability.

Mr Hyde types are to be avoided. They are hostile and become more disagreeable with each drink showing the dark side of their personality. Most likely to suffer blackouts or be arrested for being drunk and disorderly and suffer more harm to themselves. Unfortunately a quarter of us fall into this category and 2/3 are women.

Scientists have known for a long time that 50% of alcoholism cane be explained by genetics. Researchers have now discovered that the RSU1 gene, which seems to light up in response to rewards such as chocolate, is also associated with alcohol abuse.

Other research suggested that blue-eyed people were more prone to alcoholism.

Future-proofing your health

looking_in_mirror_successful_1600_wht_5648Scientists have found that making behavioural changes now can significantly improve your health in 20 years time.

They reached these conclusions after following thousands of people over a twenty year period to see what impact diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices made.


Gentle and sustained exercise every day is good for your brain and can cut the risk of developing dementia by 40% according to a study that tracked people in a community in Framingham, Massachusetts since 1948.

A 20 year study into female nurses found that those who walked  30 minutes a day scored significantly better on mental-health tests.

However three years down the line the advice for a healthy heart is that it’s not good enough just to exercise – it  has to be intense.

Danish researchers recently reported a study of 10,000 adults in the BMJ which showed that a daily power walk or jog could cut the risk of heart disease by 50% whereas a slow amble made no difference.

The fast walking halved the risk of metabolic syndrome – a collection of factors such as a bulging midriff, high blood pressure, and abnormal blood fat levels – and jogging reduced it by 50%.

Generally the more effort you put into your exercise the better. Some experts say two 60-second workouts a week can reduce the risk of heart disease from middle-age onwards. The participants in one study did all-out 6 second sprints 6 times increasing to 10 times.

They lost 1kg without changing their diet or other activities but more importantly their cardiovascular function was improved after just 8 weeks. It suggests that HIT can have a significant impact on obesity and heart disease.

On the other hand yoga is an excellent way of reducing tension, reduces bmi, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Research at Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam shows that regular yoga can be as effective as strenuous forms of exercise when it comes to heart health. For patients with existing heart disease taking medication the benefits were even greater.

So if you can’t do high intensity training (HIT)or have a pre-existing heart condition yoga sounds like the ideal solution.

Eating meat

Eating even small amounts of processed meat like bacon, sausages, or salami, can increase your likelihood of  dying prematurely by 20% according to research at Harvard based on 100,000 people over 28 years.

Unprocessed red meat also carries a health risk. Daily servings of red meat (85g) over the length of the study brought an 18% increased risk of dying from heart disease, a 10% increased risk of dying from cancer and eating 100g a day increased the risk of diabetes by 19%.

Red meat is considered dangerous because steak often contains high amounts of saturated fat and salami and bacon contain high amounts of salt.

The BHF is reviewing its guidance on fat however and suggests you eat a healthy range of fats including the saturated type you find in lean meat and some dairy; along with fats from nuts, avocados, oily fish and seeds.

Replacing red meat with poultry, fish, vegetables, whole grains and other healthy foods could cut your risk of dying prematurely by 20%.

Eating naturally occurring fats rather than that in biscuits, cakes and snacks is the best advice.


Feeling isolated at work or under threat from colleagues is not just upsetting but is a long-term risk to your health and can more than double the risk of serious illness or early death.

A 20-year study at Tel Aviv university tracked more than 800 white-collar workers. Those who were surrounded by bullies and backstabbers were 2.4 more likely to die during the study.

On the other hand feeling supported and welcomed by co-workers seems to protect your health and well-being. Considering how much time we spend at work it’s important that it is a positive experience and somewhere you can get emotional support if you need it.

But it’s not just at work. Living alone in middle age can double your chances of developing Altzheimer’s especially if you are widowed or divorced according to the findings of a 20-year study of 2,000 people published in 2011.

Vitamin supplements

Some supplements may do more harm than good. German research published in Heart in 2012 found that calcium supplements taken to fend off osteoporosis can double the risk of heart attacks.

Research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that men with prostate cancer who take more than 7  multi-vitamins a week are 30% more likely to get advanced and fatal forms of the disease.

Defenders of supplements argue that people who take them are more likely to be ill in the first place. But if you have a healthy diet and aren’t vegan why would you need to take supplements anyway?


Being conscientious i.e. doing what you say you will do, and paying attention to detail has significant health benefits according to the results of an 80-year study of American children from the age of eight called the Longevity Project.

Conscientious people live significantly longer. Being conscientious means having a prudent nature, being persistent and well-organised, somewhat obsessive and not generally carefree, say the authors of the study..

“Taking life seriously makes people want to live more meaningful, committed lives.  They also take fewer risks and look after their well-being everyday; they achieved much for their families and nurtured close relationships. They were persistent and successful and dedicated to things and people other than themselves.”


A quarter of us don’t take all our holidays in the UK (an average of 5 weeks). The US isn’t so generous with paid leave but data from the earlier mentioned Framingham study shows that women who don’t often take holidays are eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took two holidays a year.

Our bodies fact to our lifestyles and if that involves being stressed it’s not good for us.


Having sex is particularly important for middle-aged men. Those who have intercourse several times a week significantly reduce their risk of suffering a fatal stroke.

The University of Bristol monitored the cardiac health and sexual activity over over 900 men in Wales from a former mining village. The men were aged 45-59 when first studied in the early 1980s.

20% reported having sex once a month or less, 25% had sex twice a week or more often. The rest of the group were somewhere between these two extremes.

The 25% who enjoyed the most sex suffered the fewest fatal strokes according to the report in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

 Eating & Drinking

Studies in Japan show that stopping eating when you feel 80% full can reduce your calories intake by around 20%. Restricted calorie intake has been linked to longevity.

If you don’t fancy that approach a mediterranean diet helps replacing processed foods with freshly prepared meals rich in olive oil, oily fish and nuts. A low carb diet rich in nuts, grains, oat cereals and barley can reduce the risk of heart disease by 10% over 10 years.

Drinking in moderation can help you long term. A study of almost 2,000 men and women published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research showed that men and women who drink moderately tend to live longer than heavy drinkers or teetotallers.

Experts from the university of Texas found three drinks a day did no harm. Low-level alcohol consumption protects against coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in developed countries. So the experts think the benefits outweigh any risks.

Drinking tea also helps. Four or five cups a day helps to protect your heart. A survey of 13,000 people found that those drinking tea (with or without milk) had a better cardiovascular profile than coffee drinkers or those who drank neither.

Tea has a positive effect on blood pressure and has anti-oxidants that have survival benefits.

Diet Drinks are a definite no-no. Drinking artificially sweetened drinks including water is definitely not good for you. The American College of Cardiology suggest that people drinking two or more of these drinks a day are 30% more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular problem than people who never drink them.

Prime sources: Times Body + Soul June 2012 “How to be healthy in 20 years time”; Times Body & Soul January 2015 “The midlife healthy heart guide: the rules for men and women”; plus various posts from this site.


Who’s Hitting the Booze?

stick_figure_drunk_500_wht_11670Well it depends which Sunday newspaper you read.

The Observer reported that the Big Lottery Fund has just announced an investment into a UK-wide £25 million programme called “Rethink Good Health“.

It’s aim is to tackle late-onset alcohol misuse.

The Big Lottery Fund chairman Peter Ainsworth says he doesn’t want to stop older people enjoying themselves but the public tends to stigmatise younger people for drinking.

There is now a lot of  evidence that as people get older and face life-changing events such as retirement or bereavement, or when they are lonely, in pain or suffer ill-health, they may start to drink more.

A charity called Phoenix, which helps people with drug or alcohol problems, is seeing an epidemic of older people overdoing it with more being admitted to hospital as a result. In the last five years there has been a 62% increase in alcohol-related admissions for the over-65s.

An estimated 1.4 million people aged 65 and over currently exceed recommended drinking limits. As baby boomers move into old age they drink higher levels than previous generations (and well we might some would say!)

Experts advise that we abstain from drink on at leat two days a week but the over-65s are more likely than any other age group to drink on six or seven days a week. And although there are more men than women who drink enough to harm themselves (1 in 5 men & 1 in 10 women) it is women in this category which has increased by 100% over the last twenty years compared to a 40% rise in men.

Which bring me to the second report in the Sunday Times. Based on research by CACI, it reported that is was rich women who are the hard drinkers.

wine_and_glass_1600_wht_10688I’ve posted about women and drinking before and the advantages for women of moderate drinking.

The CACI research shows that women who live in posh post-code areas are more likely to have an alcohol problem than those who live in more modest areas.

So if you live in a million-pound home and enjoy a six-figure salary you may be one of the tw0-thirds of women who drink more than the recommended 3 units of alcohol a day.

Men and women in these areas also suffer more than twice the level of anxiety and nerves (6.5%) than the general population. The only people more likely to suffer like this are those living in high-rise flats, elderly people in social housing and young renters.

Women who live in these expensive areas usually don’t need to work and are socially active – “ladies who lunch”.

martini_glass_figure_1600_wht_7486There is a similar phenomenon in post-codes popular with footballers. 40% of footballers’ wives drink more than the recommended limit compared to 29% nation-wide. Their male partners also drink more but their healthy lifestyles and diet can mask the problem.

The perception is that drinking at home, particularly wine, is safe and sensible. This has been called the silent epidemic which can lead to significant health problems later in life.

malbec madness

I missed Malbec Day!


Confession: I don’t love Malbec. I find it gritty, rustic, and can usually find something else on a wine list or in the store that I’d rather have. But I know a lot of people drink it and today is Malbec Day, so in anticipation I went on a quest to see if I could find one I loved. I can’t say I fell head over heels, but I definitely found a few I really liked.

Plus, what I really like about it is that you can find a good one for not a lot of coin – hard to do with red wines. Most of the ones I really liked or at least would consider buying were under $20 – maybe that’s why people drink it so much! The best ones usually come from Mendoza, Argentina, but I was psyched to see a few good ones from the US. Here are…

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Drinking & hangover cures – fact or fiction?

The party season will soon be upon us and many of us will overindulge, not least in the amount of alcohol we consume.

And many regular over-indulgers will have their own beliefs about the best way to get drunk and the best way to get rid of the resulting hangover.

A couple of years ago the New Scientist Christmas issue went to the trouble of checking out many of these ideas.

I think it’s worth re-posting and updating it in the interest of public health and safety so here we go:

Drinking coffee will sober you up faster?

False. Caffeine will make you more alert but won’t lower your blood alcohol levels. Drinking coffee might actually make it harder for you to realise you’re drunk or fool you into thinking you are sober.

Beer before wine, you’ll be fine?

Not true. It doesn’t matter what combination you have it’s the total amount of alcohol that matters.

Darker spirits give you a bigger hangover than clear spirits?

No clear evidence. Some research says yes but others no. So more research is needed!

Shaken not stirred?

True. James Bond was right. For some reason Martinis shaken not stirred are more effective. They also have a better taste in the mouth due to microscopic ice shards. Bond may have preferred his drink that way as it reduced the oily taste left by potato based vodka popular at the time.

A spoon suspended in the neck of a champagne bottle helps keep the fizz in the bottle?

No. A spoon has no effect at all. Champagne stays fizzier longer than people think.

Champagne gets you drunker than wine?

True. But no-one knows why. Perhaps the bubbles stimulate the stomach and increase the absorption of alcohol.

Different wines for different food?

True. In part. You don’t have to drink white wine with fish, red ones can be good too. It depends on the iron content of the wine as those with a high content can leave a fishy after-taste. So if you are eating scallops drink a low iron red wine.

Alcohol is good for your health.

In moderation. There is some evidence that moderate alcohol consumption may protect the heart but there are risks for cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, bowel and breasts the more you drink.

Absinthe is hallucinogenic?

False. The reputation of the “green fairy” for causing hallucinations, mental instability, and criminal behaviour is unfounded. A favourite drink of Hemingway, Van Gogh, and Oscar Wilde, it was banned in several European countries in the 1900s. Wormwood is the ingredient which contains thujone. It doesn’t have a cannabis-like effect but is toxic to nerve cells at high doses and can cause seizures. However experts now believe the results were down to either alcohol poisoning – it was 70% alcohol, twice the level of most other spirits –  or adulteration by methanol, common with cheap liquor.

You get drunk faster drinking through a straw?

False. Drinks that come with straws are often fruity flavours that mask the alcohol so you drink them faster. Also they are more likely to be drunk by women who are more susceptible to alcohol.

Drinking beer gives you a beer belly?

False. Although alcohol is high in calories – a litre of continental lager contains 350 kcal and a pint of British bitter about 170 kcal – a study of 2000 Czechs (who drink more beer than anyone else) found no connection with the amount of beer consumed and the size of the drinker’s stomach.

Don’t worry there are plenty of cures for hangovers?

Not true. A recent comprehensive review for the benefits of banana, aspirin, Vegemite (Marmite), fructose, glucose, artichoke, prickly pear as well as the drugs tropisetron and tolfenamic found that there was no scientific evidence of any cure or prevention for alcoholic hangovers.

And the hair of the dog only makes the hangover last longer. The good news is that one in four people are naturally resistant to hangovers probably due to genetic differences in the way they metabolise alcohol.

And Dr Mark in the Times (21/12/2010) also contributed to this debate.

Apparently many Danes believe you can get drunk by filling your wellington boots with alcohol.

Not true. After sitting for 3 hours with their feet in washing up bowls full of vodka volunteers were found to have no alcohol in their system.

Drinking water prevents hangovers?

People believe drinking alcohol causes dehydration. Weaker drinks like beer or spirits with mixers won’t cause dehydration although they may make your mouth feel dry because of the astringent effect of alcohol. Stronger ones like wine,port, sherry, liqueurs, and straight spirits cause significant water loss. As a guide Dr Mark suggests one glass of water for every two glasses of wine.

Beer is more fattening than wine?

Only the stronger beers. Alcohol accounts for most of the calories in drinks. A pint of average strength beer contains the same calories as a glass of wine or a double shot of spirits. But strong beers and ciders can contain double the calories.

Different drinks affect your mood in different ways?

Not true. It’s the strength of the drink and your underlying personality.  Alcohol is both a sedative and a disinhibitor. So some people will become the life and soul of the party, some will become withdrawn and tearful, while others will become aggressive or promiscuous.

What gets you drunk quicker?

Warm drinks between 10 and 20 percent alcohol are absorbed quickest which explains why mulled wine is a good way to start off a party. Stronger drinks and cold drinks slow gastric emptying and impair absorption as does a full stomach. So eating before you drink will slow the rate of absorption and gives your body time to deal with it.

A fry-up is the best way to get over your hangover?

No. As we know from the New Scientist article there are no certain cures for hangovers.

A more scientific approach is:

  • take paracetamol (not aspirin or ibuprofen as these can worsen indigestion or nausea)
  • to raise low blood pressure eat something sweet such as jam on toast or a doughnut
  • take caffeine in the form of coffee or strong tea
  • rehydrate but not with fruit juices as they can further irritate your stomach lining

There is some good news about drinking in moderation, especially for women

But there are downsides too. See:  Drinking limits


Wine, Women, and Health

I tweeted last week about the latest research showing that after marriage men tend to drink less but women drink more – and there are probably some women who would say “do you wonder?”

In a recent Times’ Body & Soul section John Naish gave a really good overview about women and alcohol consumption which was also a reminder of how stingy recommended allowances are.

A standard 175ml glass of wine = 2 units. So one glass of wine each day of the week is the UK government’s recommended upper limit for women.

And it’s a class thing but not what you might think. The more middle class or the better educated you are the more you are likely to drink. Graduates are twice as likely to drink every day compared to non – graduates, too much practice on cheap booze in the student bars perhaps?

And according to official statistics 1 in 6 professional women drink more than 6 units at least once a week. That’s three glasses of wine in one session which is the NHS definition of binge drinking!

Experts say it’s probably because better educated women have wider social circles or are more likely to work in male-dominated environments. And that’s part of the problem.  Women can’t tolerate alcohol in the same way as men. Not only do they have lower body weight and less water in their bodies but their livers don’t deal with alcohol as efficiently as mens’.

A major US study of over 100,000 women over 20 years showed that women who drink 2 glasses of wine a day have 50% more chance of developing breast cancer, probably because alcohol raises levels of oestrogen which can trigger tumour growth.

Women who drink more than recommended are also more vulnerable than men to developing a whole range of cancers. Perhaps slightly less seriously excess alcohol consumption is also linked to fatigue, weight gain, and depression.

Drinking in excess in middle age is linked with increased risk of dementia and memory loss even for people who were abstinent earlier in their lives.

Women in their 30s and 40s are also more likely to be prosecuted for drink-driving than men, according to research at Nottingham University. Naish’s article said it wasn’t because they are more reckless but because they drive over the limit when picking up stranded children who need a lift home. So no good deed goes unpunished.

However a report on the same research published in Clinical Psychology Review last May said the profile of  women drink-driving offenders was; ” divorced, widowed or separated with fewer previous convictions than their male counterparts. … they may be distressed by their situation and turning to drink”.

But giving these women rehabilitation programmes designed to shame them, such as meeting bereaved families, doesn’t work with middle-aged women because the negative emotions induced will increase emotional distress which could lead to more drinking and their committing more alcohol-related offences – as these researchers found had happened in the USA.

So women should stick to 1 glass a day and not be tempted to finish the bottle. Wine boxes help in that regard as you don’t feel the same need to finish the box!

And there is some good news if you can stick to that level of drinking.

A range of research studies show that women who drink no more than a glass and a half a day are less likely than teetotallers to get rheumatoid arthritis; they are also less likely to develop a stroke than those who stop drinking, and less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.

Harvard School of Public Health found that women who drink moderately in middle age are more likely than non-drinkers to be in good physical and mental health in their retirement.

A little of what you fancy..

A little of what you fancy.. does you good. A large US health and lifestyle study of 14,000 female nurses reported in the Times suggests that a moderate alcohol intake can help middle-aged women enjoy better health and look forward to a longer life.

Dr Sun from the Harvard School of Public Health wrote that; “Moderate alcohol consumption was associated with modestly better overall health status“. The good news is that two shots of spirits or three small glasses of wine impro … Read More

via Mike the Psych’s Blog with permission