Thursday, December 08, 2011

Let's drop the valium myth

A standard feminist argument against the traditional family is that it left women so discontent that they were popping valium pills and self-medicating on martinis to get by.

And no doubt there were women doing just that. But the feminist argument doesn't work. If the problem was that women were at home rather than in paid work, then the increase in women going out to do paid work should be improving the situation. Fewer women should now be relying on pills and alcohol to get by.

But the opposite has happened. The reliance on pills and alcohol has increased considerably. For instance, in America the situation is as follows:

More than one in four American women took at least one drug for conditions like anxiety and depression last year, according to an analysis of prescription data.

So more than a quarter of American women are now taking anti-depressant or anti-anxiety drugs. And this is the situation in the UK when it comes to alcohol consumption in middle-class homes:

Millions of middle-class women are drinking far more alcohol than they thought, according to official figures revealed.

...up to a third of women are drinking beyond safe limits every week - much higher than previous estimates.

The shock statistics also reveal the more you earn, the more you drink - with those in higher income groups consuming 30 per cent more alcohol than the working classes.

It confirms the warning by Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo last year when she said the most serious drinking problem was from middleclass, middle-aged people.

She told MPs: "That is where the serious and dramatic harm is increasing."

The ONS found that those in managerial and professional jobs drink 15.1 units a week, against 11.6 for those in routine and manual occupations.

Those in the very highest income brackets have even more.

Sarah Jarvis, a GP in London, said: "This is not scaremongering - this is a disaster.

"Older people think that because they are not going out vomiting in the street they are not binge drinkers but it is simply not true.

"I see thirty-somethings and forty-somethings with real health problems.

"A lot of them are holding down full-time jobs and don't think they have a problem.

"These people share a bottle of wine with their partner every night as well as having gin and tonics before supper."

The proportion of women drinking too much has leapt from a fifth to a third under the new calculations...

So according to official figures one in three women in the UK exceed safe alcohol consumption, with the problem being more acute amongst high earners.

Surely the evidence here is clear enough. Women are taking more pills and drinking more booze as society changes in a feminist direction - which leaves the valium argument discredited.

10 comments:

  1. Isn't this a symptom of a broader cultural trend though - ie, the habit of viewing more and more social problems from a medical perspective?

    I'd be willing to bet that men self-medicate in similar ways and that those forms of self-medication have risen over the past few decades.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You can't say its particularily or predominantly related to stay a home wives though.

    ReplyDelete
  3. TimT said...

    Isn't this a symptom of a broader cultural trend though - ie, the habit of viewing more and more social problems from a medical perspective?

    Unhappiness is an illness. Criminal behaviour is an illness. Not voting for the Left is probably an illness now as well.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh yeah, for the past decade it's been relatively common to see stories and opinion columns arguing just that, that people who vote for right-wing parties are suffering from one pathology or another. To be fair occasionally right-leaning columnists and politicians level the same charge at the left as well. It's a pretty dishonest thing to do as it instantly turns a conversation from one about ideas and points of view to mutually traded insults.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "Surely the evidence here is clear enough. Women are taking more pills and drinking more booze as society changes in a feminist direction - which leaves the valium argument discredited."

    Doesn't work that way. Feminist will word it differently, it's because White men are not allowing them to be free and achieve greater autonomy. In other words, it's because they reach the glass ceiling and can go no further. It's the men's fault once again.

    And if you disagree with that? Well...What are ya? A chav who wants to kill 6 million Jews, that's what!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Chill out Normal Guy, just because they can make an argument doesn't mean that we can't make one too. I think the better feminist argument would be that current working conditions are too demanding, and express a masculine focus on productivity as a sole goal, without regard for the workers or a home life balance etc. This is turn forces woman to drink heavily etc to alleviate stress. When women are in charge they’ll be a more “natural” blending or the home, work, personal development and productivity spheres etc. Good times.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Re depression - there was a particular problem in 1950s America that men often moved for work reasons, and their homemaker wives could become cut off from friends & family. This combined with the reduction in housework chores from labour saving devices, to give lots of isolated leisure time - a recipe for depression. It's the isolation that was the problem - it's not an issue in traditional close-knit communities.

    Men and women both need plenty of human contact. Women today are more stressed & unhappy, partly from work, although they don't work as hard as men on average.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Re depression - there was a particular problem in 1950s America that men often moved for work reasons, and their homemaker wives could become cut off from friends & family. This combined with the reduction in housework chores from labour saving devices, to give lots of isolated leisure time - a recipe for depression. It's the isolation that was the problem - it's not an issue in traditional close-knit communities.

    I agree. People often make the mistake of thinking that the 50s was a decade of stability but it wasn't. It was an era of major social change, a time when traditional communities were breaking down. Most of the social problems we have now have their roots in the 50s. The 50s is when it all started going wrong, although the catastrophic consequences didn't become evident for another couple of decades.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Some possible reasons for increase in alcohol consumption:

    1 - Distraction.
    2 - Numbing the meaningless of modernity.
    3 - Aliviating conditions such as a depression.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Elizabeth Smith said...

    Some possible reasons for increase in alcohol consumption:

    1 - Distraction.
    2 - Numbing the meaningless of modernity.
    3 - Aliviating conditions such as a depression.


    When people (and I'm taking about men and women) are told that they don't have to take responsibility for anything, that alcoholism and drug addiction are illnesses rather than moral choices, then naturally you're going to have an explosion in alcohol and drug use.

    ReplyDelete

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.