It is often said that AA is a very “male focussed” movement and some people believe that the reason AA works for men is because they are able to replace their drinking buddies with AA buddies. But almost a third of AA members in the USA are women.
We came across a new study that looks at the different ways that men and women stay abstinent in AA. Two researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital found that some parts of AA helped men and women equally but some factors were stronger in men, while others were stronger in women.
According to the American website Medical News Today, this study is important because it has “carried out some of the first studies identifying the behavioral changes behind the success of AA participation, and this report is the first to examine whether the benefits differ between men and women.”
The following extracts from the Medical News Today article describe the main difference between male and female reactions to abstinence:
“For both men and women, participation in AA increased confidence in the ability to cope with high-risk drinking situations and increased the number of social contacts who supported recovery efforts. But the effect of both of those changes on the ability to abstain from drinking was about twice as strong for men as for women. In contrast, women benefitted much more than men from improved confidence in their ability to abstain during times when they were sad or depressed…Several factors that helped to reduce the intensity of drinking in men – such as less depression and fewer friends who encouraged drinking – did not appear to be as important for helping women.
“In terms of alcoholism recovery more generally, we found the ability to handle negative moods and emotions was important for women but not for men. Conversely, coping with high-risk social situations – which could be attending sports or other events where people are likely to drink – was important for men but not women. These differences suggests that, for women, finding alternative ways to cope with negative emotions may yield recovery benefits, while among men, a greater focus on coping with social occasions that feature drinking may enhance recovery.”
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Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | January 28, 2020