Wine o’clock is a common scenario. It’s that time where we kick back, relax and ‘treat’ ourselves to a bottle of wine every night after a busy day.
It’s viewed as an emotional and physical anaesthetic, blotting out worries, stresses and even depression.
But do women over the age of 40 even consider their drinking habits as problematic? Probably not…
We see all these jokey social media posts about wine glasses as large as your head or “It’s wine o’clock somewhere in the world.” But according to UK Alcohol Health Alliance we have seen the biggest rise in binge drinking in women over 40.
Depression is said to peak when women get to the age of 40 and over. An American study by the US Department of Health and Human Services showed that 15% of women aged 40 – 64 will develop some form of depression. The real number is thought to be higher, as some women will soldier on and see depression as normal… so it goes unreported.
So what triggers stress and depression in women over 40?
A lot of my female clients tell me they drink to deal with their overwhelmingly busy lifestyles. These women are usually high-functioning women waiting to numb the day. They look like they have it all figured out – a case of feeling in control on the outside but out of control on the inside.
Let’s not forget hardworking mums who juggle everything from looking after the kids to making sure all aspects of their lives ticking along well. They don’t have time for themselves at the end of the day, so they drink for a quick-fix way to relax.
Some women drink because of Empty Nest Syndrome. Their children have left home and they may feel lonely or bored… pretty much at a loose end.
Plus, loneliness is on the up in women in their 40s and 50s.
Every woman’s reason for reaching for that fourth glass of wine in the evenings is different.
Here’s just a few quick reasons why some women over 40 might choose to reach for the wine:
That “what if” feeling…
They say life begins at 40. While that may be true, it can also be a time where women are starting to question their own lives.
We start to ask: “What if I had done things differently?”
Some women may be questioning their career choices, education and even getting married. This can contribute towards depression. But not necessarily for all the wrong reasons.
We change as people constantly – but when we reach 40 and over we are more conscious of our transformations and are more prepared to question them.
The trick is not to compare ourselves to other women of similar ages, but to pinpoint what we want as individuals. This can be extremely overwhelming, so it’s more likely that women aged 40+ will placate themselves at wine o’clock every evening.
Drinking problems weren’t built in a day
We all know that alcohol problems don’t surface overnight. They develop over months, if not years.
First comes denial.
That moment where we just don’t think we have a drinking problem whatsoever. Some will say; “But wine is my little treat. I work hard. I deserve it!”
Then comes the sort of people we hang out with. We’re aware of how much we’re drinking but you hang out with certain people who justify your behaviour.
Peer pressure isn’t just for teenagers
We constantly tell our children, “Don’t let your friends pressure you into drinking or taking drugs.” But we often overlook the fact that peer pressure can happen to women in our age range…
It doesn’t matter whether we are the instigators or our friends are – the point is that even we can fall foul of peer pressure!
We may have that one friend who you only seem to meet up with in a place where alcohol is served. Or you may have friends that can’t drop by your house without bringing a bottle of red. These people could have drinking problems of their own and could be justifying it by hanging out with us (and vice versa).
It sounds harsh, but perhaps these aren’t real friends of yours. Can you remember the last time you met up with them without drinking alcohol? Can you recall a time in the last three months when you didn’t have a tipsy conversation?
If some of your friends are the first to arrive at a pub or bar and the last to leave (after persuading you to stay out longer so you can both drink more together) then it may be time to distance yourself.
“Why is it such a big deal?”
Women have less tolerance to alcohol than men as a whole and as we get older we have even less tolerance.
Not only is alcohol a cancer risk, a cause of premature ageing and bad for the menopause, it also has the potential to blow up into a full blown drinking problem.
It’s also a gateway to amplifying depression, stress and anxiety. Alcohol disrupts our sleeping patterns, so we feel more tired out and in a worse mood than before we reached for the wine the night before. Alcohol also has the capacity to spring anxious feelings onto you during situations where you’d normally be OK with… or even thrive.
Other health risks:
So when it gets to ‘wine o’clock’ this evening, just think of the risks and try something different instead. Whether that’s going to a dance class that’s been on your list for a while, helping a charity in your free time, yoga or even starting a novel. Maybe you can impose a ‘no drinking in the week’ rule just to ensure that you are clocking up some serious sober time. Remember; admitting that you might be drinking too much is not a moral issue, it’s a health issue. There’s no shame in actively taking steps to look after yourself. Filling up your ‘wine o’clock’ time with more productive activities could be a giant step closer to happiness.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bunmi Aboaba a Sobriety Companion and Coach, and founder of The Sober Advantage. Bunmi helps people battling a variety of addictions to get control of their lives and beat their addiction – for good. Bunmi uses a variety of techniques to help her clients, all of which she has used herself to help her gain her sobriety and remain sober for 10 years.